Dozens of sportsmen have been identified importing steroids into the country, creating a dilemma for anti-doping agency Drug Free Sport New Zealand.

Most, if not all, of the cases are understood to involve people playing below elite level. In some cases those identified may have inquired about how to get certain substances without going through with it but they have been "red-flagged" to authorities.

This week the Sports Tribunal of New Zealand banned Horowhenua-Kapiti cricketer Adam King for two years for the possession and use of anabolic steroids and hormones.

A source at one of New Zealand's biggest sporting organisations told the Herald they believed it was "the tip of the iceberg", a contention Drug Free Sport NZ did not challenge.


CEO Graeme Steel would not say how many people they are looking at or what sports are involved, but did say the King inquest was indicative of the kind of cases that will coming up more regularly.

"We certainly see that this is the trend, the kind of cases we're running," Steel, who will leave his role as CEO of DFSNZ this year, said.

The backlog of prospective cases is the consequence of DFSNZ changing emphasis from a testing agency to an investigative body.

DFSNZ has an information-sharing arrangement with Medsafe NZ and enforcement agencies such as Customs to help weed out those engaged in importing prohibited substances purchased online.

The intended consequence of this is they catch those looking to cheat at sport.

"We don't just rely on testing any longer and have some very good sources of information," Steel said.

An unintended but perhaps inevitable consequence of that is they are catching those who are using banned substances for vanity reasons - that is to say, for rapid weight loss or to make themselves look "cut" - but who also happen to be registered athletes with sports who come under the anti-doping code.

DFSNZ's remit is to ensure New Zealand sport is conducted "clean", which it has gained an international reputation for.

An unspoken part of that is while they don't think the ingestion of any non-prescribed drug is a good idea, they're not that fussed about the community sportsman or woman who might have shared a joint at a party a few weeks back, a subject Steel touched on when discussing his impending departure from DFSNZ recently.

"I don't think it's a good idea to use cannabis at all but our tool is the wrong tool to address that," he said. "It's like trying to use a Phillips screwdriver when you need a flathead. The motivation for using marijuana and the environment it is used in is completely different from using a steroid or whatever."

The number of potential cases involved with the importation of banned substances could create a similar philosophical and practical dilemma for the agency. The resource required to follow through on these cases are considerable and for what return?

"All sports people are subject to the anti-doping rules and shouldn't think they can't be touched because they are not competing at the top level," Steel said. "Those who buy prohibited substances online are making a huge mistake, and as well as cheating, are putting their health and their sporting career at great risk."

King, a pace bowler who played periodically at Hawke Cup level, was found guilty of taking nandrolone, testosterone, tamoxifen and anastrozole.

Medsafe contacted DFSNZ in October 2015 to say they had a number of emails of interest after investigating internet drug supplier NZ Clenbuterol.

An email, from King, read: "Please provide me with a price and direction on doing one cycle of Nandralone (Deca). Looking to put on lean and athletic muscle to improve explosive performance in sport, and prevent injury."

King left for a season of club cricket in the UK and attempts to engage UK Anti-Doping proved difficult. It was not until King returned home in late 2016 that he was notified by DFSNZ.

He admitted to the offences.

Last year, Manawatu club rugby player Adam Jowsey was banned for two years for taking clenbuterol. The front-rower claimed to have taken the drug for weight loss, not as a performance enhancer, as it had a negative effect on his performance.