A former All Blacks sevens player and a Black Fern are amongh four players have been banned by the New Zealand Rugby following anti-doping hearings.
Zoey Berry, Rhys Pedersen, Glen Robertson and Ben Qauqau-Dodds have all been handed bans, NZ Rugby announced today.
Robertson played for Waikato and was a member of the New Zealand under-20 squad in 2010 and 2011 as well as a member of the All Blacks Sevens side in 2011-12.
Robertson no longer is a registered rugby player but made four appearances for Waikato including a Ranfurly Shield defence against Thames Valley in 2016.
Berry played one test for the Black Ferns in 2012 in a tour of England.
Qauqau-Dodds and Pedersen played club rugby in Dunedin and Palmerston North respectively.
Berry, Pedersen, and Robertson have been banned from playing rugby for the possession and, in some cases, use or attempted use of Clenbuterol and Qauqau-Dodds has been banned for the possession and use or attempted use of Metandienone.
Clenbuterol and Metandienone are both prohibited substances under the NZ Sports Anti-Doping Rules.
All athletes pleaded guilty to at least one of the offences alleged.
The New Zealand Rugby Judicial Committee has ordered the suspension of Berry for four years commencing on 31 July 2017, Pedersen for 21 months from 1 January 2017, Robertson for four years from 3 February 2017 and Qauqau-Dodds for two years commencing on 31 July 2017. All four athletes were playing club rugby at the time of the offending.
In Berry's case she purchased Clenbuterol online before returning to club rugby in 2015 after taking a break from the game a year earlier. Her evidence was that at the time she was not playing rugby and did not intend to play the sport again.
They are the first rugby cases heard following the revelation in the Weekend Herald that more than 100 athletes registered with national sporting organisations had been caught illegally purchasing steroids from the website clenbuterol.co.nz.
The website's owner Joshua Francis Townshend was jailed for two years after a Medsafe investigation.
More than 80 of the athletes are expected to face either the New Zealand Sports Tribunal or Rugby Judiciary.
In a statement last month, NZR general manager rugby Neil Sorensen said: "It's a pretty simple message – there is no room for doping, steroids or illegal drugs in rugby or in any sport in New Zealand. The vast majority of players work hard to juggle work, school, training and life to earn their spot in a team, and they do it without cheating."
International ice hockey playing brothers Lachlan and Mitchell Frear have already been banned for two years after buying clenbuterol.
Mitchell Frear, who has been to three world championships with the national ice hockey team, was found to have purchased a 10ml bottle of clenbuterol spray in October 2014. Younger brother Lachlan, who has been part of the national under-20 squad, made two purchases of the same product, in November 2014 and January 2015.
Both argued that they had bought the product only as a means of shedding weight and were unaware the purchase was illegal, however the Sports Tribunal found the athletes were at fault and imposed the sanction.
Club cricketer Christopher Ware was also banned for two years.
The doping investigation was initiated by medical regulatory body Medsafe.
It resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of Joshua Francis Townshend last year after he admitted to 129 charges under the Medicines Act. He was sentenced to two years at the Christchurch District Court.
Townshend was mixing, packaging and selling clenbuterol and other anabolic steroids from his Christchurch home. His client database was made available to Drug Free Sport New Zealand, resulting in the unprecedented number of cases to be brought before the twin tribunals in the next six months to a year.