Second player hit with drugs ban
April 1, 2011
Karena Wihongi was banned on Thursday © Getty Images
Rotherham forward Nico Steenkamp has received a three-month suspension after testing positive for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine.
Steenkamp was banned by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) a day after it was announced that Sale Sharks prop Karena Wihongi had been suspended for four months following a positive test for the same stimulant.
Steenkamp failed a test following a Championship game between Rotherham and Cornish Pirates in early January, with his ban running from a provisional suspension date of January 28 until April 28.
Methylhexaneamine is thought to stimulate the central nervous system and increase the body's metabolic rate to give it an energy boost. It was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's prohibited list last year after the organisation noticed it appearing in nutritional supplements.
The RFU disciplinary panel heard that Steenkamp had been combining working full-time as a double glazing and window installation fitter with training at Rotherham three nights a week, four or five weekly gym sessions, plus two-hour drives to and from training.
He then began taking the high-energy drink USN Anabolic Nitro in a bid to help him combat fatigue. In its written judgement, the panel said: "We were satisfied the player did not know that Anabolic Nitro contained MHA, and there was no reasonable basis upon which he could have know that such was the case.
"In this case, the player did not in any event take Anabolic Nitro with a view to enhancing his sport performance. Rather, he had taken Anabolic Nitro with the intention of alleviating fatigue caused by his arduous lifestyle and its logistical demands.
"He relied on assurances from someone who was not a doctor, from the seller of the supplement and from his own efforts on the internet. Even when the player made good faith efforts to leave no reasonable stone unturned, he is still at fault in failing to consult a doctor or anti-doping specialist, or indeed to have the substance analysed.
"Any athlete who takes a supplement without first taking advice from those with expertise in doping control, places himself at real risk of committing an anti-doping rule violation. He did take what he thought were his own reasonable steps to ascertain the status of the ingredients. They were not enough."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.