In that statement, the independent Judicial Tribunal, while producing figures to justify the suspension imposed, chose, inexplicably, to ignore the evidence produced by Frank Sheahan and his legal and medical team, which explained the presence of a prohibited substance in a sample collected from the player after the Heineken Cup in Toulouse.
Not only did the Judicial Tribunal fail to take proper cognisance ofthe medical information offered by Frank Sheahan's experts, but importantly and more damagingly, failed to acknowledge or take into account medical opinions given to it by their own experts. The decision handed down is confusing, inconsistent and patently flawed. It has appalling consequences not only for Frankie Sheahan but for all asthmatics involved in rugby football and sport in general. It is Frank Sheahan's intention to do everything in his power to reclaim his good name and his right to earn a living. An appeal is being prepared.
The facts are as follows :
Frank Sheahan is an asthmatic. He uses a Ventolin inhaler which contains Salbutamol to help treat his condition. This fact is well documented and was accepted by the Judicial tribunal At the hearing in ERC headquarters, it was pointed out to the Judicial Tribunal that:
1. Frank Sheahan acknowledged his part in failing to fill out the necessary document which technically left him open to a doping offence.
2. That he required medication to treat this asthmatic condition and that he inhaled this medication. The Judicial Tribunal accepted that Frank Sheahan was an asthmatic, that he required medication and that he inhaled this medication ontaining Salbutamol.
3. On Frank Sheahan's behalf, it was pointed out that the subsequent level of Salbutamol in the urine is not relevant or applicable to the Rules of the Competition because of his condition and medical requirements and that there is no cut-off point or level outlined in the competition rules or the IOC regulations, provided that the medicineis inhaled.
If the Salbutamol levels found in the urine sample were a relevant factor, medical opinion offered on behalf of Sheahan that it was present as a result of inhalation, was accepted by the medical experts retained by the ERC (including members of the International Olympic. (It should be noted that one puff of a Ventolin inhaler is equivalent to 100,000 (one hundred thousand) ng/ml of Salbutamol).
Professor Kenneth Duncan Finch, the renowned Anti-Doping Expert, retained by the ERC confirmed that when research findings indicate the approach taken in the current list of prohibited substances and prohibited methods is scientifically flawed, prompt action to correct the position should be taken and that this is exactly the position that currently relates to Salbutamol readings in excess of 1000 ng/ml.
He went on to say that he would consider it a gross injustice to any athlete found with a Salbutamol concentration in excess of 1000 ng/ml in his urine to be charged with a doping violation without investigating whether the Salbutamol was inhaled. Professor Finch had tests carried out on the residue of the "A" sample in an IOC accredited Laboratory in Barcelona, which confirmed that in Frank Sheahan's case the Salbutamol in the urine had been inhaled.
Finally, in relation to the divergence in the level of prohibited substance found in the players sample, from the qurter final and semi final, Perry Leary, a Professor of Pharmatology, an acknowledged expert in this area, gave evidence on behalf of Frank Sheahan in which he stated that the humidity differential (a maximum of 57%) between the Leicester and Toulouse games, coupled with the severe dehydration experienced by the player immediately and for some time after the game, had a direct bearing on the levels found in the sample provided. The ERC medical team agreed with this evidence.
Statment from the Munster Branch:
Following on from the decision by ERC Ltd to impose a 2 year suspension on their player Frank Sheahan, Munster Rugby have issued the following statement.
The Munster players and management are well aware that Frank Sheahan has been an asthmatic sufferer since 1977 and has used a Ventolin inhaler to enable him to play rugby. The Munster players and management would like to record their full and unqualified support of Frank Sheahan.
They are very confident that he will be successful in his appeal and that his good name and integrity will be restored. Everybody looks forward to a speedy resumpion of his career with Munster.