More decisions on sanctions for athletes caught up in the clenbuterol scandal are expected soon, possibly before Christmas.
The Sports Tribunal and Rugby Judiciary have been hearing cases over the past week but have yet to reach decisions. That will likely mean an unwelcome Christmas present for some athletes as announcements are expected next week, though indications are the Rugby Judiciary decisions may take longer.
More than 80 athletes across a range of sports and at varying levels are expected to have their cases heard after more than 100 registered athletes are alleged to have tried to purchase illegal steroids.
More than 40 per cent of those are understood to be rugby players. Of particular concern is the understanding some schoolboy rugby players were involved, fuelling the belief that the "professionalisation" of the game at that level is producing nasty side effects.
"At that stage we haven't been given a date and are not expecting any outcomes before the end of the year," said a NZ Rugby spokeswoman.
In a statement last week, 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."
On Monday, two international ice hockey-playing brothers Mitchell and Lachlan Frear were banned for two years after purchasing clenbuterol from the now-defunct website clenbuterol.co.nz. The bans were backdated to January 1, 2017.
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.
The doping investigation was initiated by medical regulatory body Medsafe.
It resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of Joshua Francis Townshend this 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.
DFSNZ CEO Nick Paterson said regardless of the level of sportsman or woman, his organisation was obligated to act, while Sport New Zealand boss Peter Miskimmin described it as a "massive wake-up call".
The cases come at a time of great sensitivity around the vexed issue of sporting integrity.
Russia has been banned from competing at next year's Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, though individuals may compete under a neutral flag if they can prove they have not been involved in doping.
This week news broke that the world's best stage-race cyclist Chris Froome could have his Vuelta Espana – one of three grand tours along with the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France – title stripped after testing positive for elevated levels of salbutamol.