Ryder 'devastated' by suspension

By Michael Brown

Cricketer Jesse Ryder, seen here driving his SUV in Lower Hutt, has been suspended for six months for an anti-doping violation. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Cricketer Jesse Ryder, seen here driving his SUV in Lower Hutt, has been suspended for six months for an anti-doping violation. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Cricketer Jesse Ryder has been suspended for six months after testing positive for a banned substance but will be available to play again on October 19.

The 29-year-old took a dietary supplement when playing for Wellington last season and was tested at a Ford Trophy match against Northern Districts on March 24. He returned a positive test for 1-Phenylbutan-2-amine (PBA) and N, alpha-diethyl-benzeneethanamine (DEBEA), both of which are banned in competition.

He was informed of the positive test on April 12 and appeared in a hearing with the Sports Tribunal earlier this month. Ryder accepts the penalty imposed and will not appeal the judgment.

The mandatory penalty for this violation is two years' suspension but Ryder was handed a lighter sentence because he was able to establish how the prohibited substances got in his system and that it wasn't intended to enhance his sport performance.

Ryder admitted the violation and explained he had been using a dietary supplement in order to lose weight and had taken two capsules five days before being tested.

The supplement didn't list any prohibited substances on its label.

"I'm devastated by this situation,'' Ryder said in a statement. "I've never taken drugs and to be in this situation distresses me greatly. I simply took the supplement alongside a training programme I was completing to help me lose weight.

"I have attended anti-doping education seminars during my time in cricket and am a strong supporter of Drug Free Sport New Zealand.

"I'm aware of the precautions you need to take. I did take steps to check the supplement but, ultimately, it was my responsibility and I accept that.

"Whilst everyone is aware of my well documented battles with alcohol, it's important for me to state that I abhor drug use of any kind, both recreational and performance-enhancing in sport.''

Ryder took the supplement on the advice of a friend who had success losing weight using it. He made some enquiries on his own about the product, including internet searches and asking the strength and conditioning specialist he worked with about it, who also did some searches. Ryder concluded it didn't contain any prohibited substances and got his manager to order it.

When he received the product he noticed it contained a warning on its label stating it may contain ingredients banned by certain organisations. He made internet searches on two of the ingredients but didn't contact Drug Free Sport to check about the product even though the product contained a warning.

As a professional cricketer, he had been subject to anti-doping education, including attending Drug Free Sport presentations during the previous season, and had received information about the need to be cautious about taking supplements. The failure to contact Drug Free Sport, having seen the warning on the label, is the most substantial factor of fault on the part of Ryder.

Ryder's legal counsel, Simon Moore QC, described the judgment as a fair one.

"Some may think this decision overly lenient; others that it is pretty tough. But what needs to be remembered is that the Sports Tribunal is required to impose penalties against both local and international case comparators. I think it's got the balance dead right.''

New Zealand Cricket Players Association chief executive Heath Mills said it had been a disappointing experience for everyone involved.

"We utterly support the work of Drug Free Sport NZ and the fight against performance enhancing drugs in sport, and Jesse needs to take responsibility for the substance in his system,'' he said. "However, it's accepted this wasn't an attempt to gain an unfair advantage and the NZCPA will continue to support Jesse as he deals with consequences of the situation.''

Ryder recently signed to play for Otago in a bid to relaunch his international career and his ban shouldn't affect his ability to do that. The domestic cricket season normally begins towards the end of October.

He last played for New Zealand in February 2012 before making himself unavailable after a "deeply stressful and emotional time'' in the spotlight but is one of the most damaging players in world cricket.

He averages 40.93 in his 18 tests, with a high score of 201 against India in 2009, and 34.37 in 39 one-day internationals.

Ryder's chequered career has earned him a cult following, as well as plenty of opprobrium since his international debut in 2008.

He was attacked outside a Christchurch bar in March, when he suffered a head injury and spent two days in an induced coma in Christchurch Hospital.

Two men were charged with assaulting Ryder - a 20-year-old carpet layer pleaded guilty to one charge of assault and a 37-year-old builder has elected trial by jury, which has yet to be heard.

- APNZ

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