Southland Shark Dawson suspended 12 months

SHARON REECE AND NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 06/08/2014
'STUPID MISTAKE': Southland Sharks’ basketballer Gareth Dawson in action against the Otago Nuggets in April before he was suspended for taking a prohibited substance.
ROBYN EDIE/FAIRFAX NZ
'STUPID MISTAKE': Southland Sharks’ basketballer Gareth Dawson in action against the Otago Nuggets in April before he was suspended for taking a prohibited substance.

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Southland Sharks basketballer Gareth Dawson tried to order online the prescription drugs which fouled him out of the 2014 season, but they were seized by Customs.

The 2.06-metre centre has been suspended from playing for 12 months after the Sports Tribunal found his taking of prohibited substance tamoxifen was not for performance-enhancing purposes.

Dawson originally faced a two-year suspension but said the tribunal was lenient after being satisfied he hadn't intentionally cheated.

''I just made a stupid mistake by not checking prescriptions,'' he said.

A report from the Sports Tribunal, made public yesterday, says Dawson sought medical advice for a ''painful'' condition in Timaru in 2011.

His family doctor gave him a diagnosis but did not prescribe any treatment at the time.

The condition went away for about 18 months but then returned.

Living in Invercargill and a member of the Southland Sharks, Dawson researched treatments available, subsequently ordering tamoxifen tablets from an online pharmacy.

The parcel was intercepted in the mail by New Zealand Customs who referred it to the Ministry of Health.

The report says Dawson did not follow up its non-receipt and when the tamoxifen did not arrive he consulted an Invercargill doctor, Dr Peter Finlayson, who had prescribed medicines to the Sharks but was not the team doctor.

Dawson requested a repeat prescription of tamoxifen and was prescribed the medicine by Finlayson, the report says.

While disappointed he couldn't play until next May, Dawson said he was relieved the saga was over and he could move on.

''It has been tough; it's been going on for two and a half months, it's hard to have something of this nature going on. I try to put it out of my mind and carry on, but at the same time it's hard to get away from it,'' he said.

The tribunal said it was satisfied Dawson ''did not intend to enhance his sports performance or to mask the use of a performance enhancing substance''.

The tamoxifen was taken during a 10-day period in November and December last year.

Dawson completed the prescribed tamoxifen in March this year after the medical condition returned.

A sample collected from Dawson by Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFS) on March 22 confirmed the presence of the prohibited substance tamoxifen.

The tribunal heard an application from DFS for provisional suspension and made the order for Dawson's suspension on May 15.

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In evidence to the tribunal, Dawson said his lapse was unintentional and the tamoxifen was sought to relieve an ''embarrassing and painful medical condition''.

The decision said Dawson ''made little effort in exercising the proper caution to be expected of a semi-professional and experienced athlete to avoid taking prohibited substances''.

Dawson is suspended from all participation in sport until May 15, 2015.

*Sharon Reece is a Southern Institute of Technology journalism student.

- The Southland Times

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