New Zealand women's rugby sevens player Lavinia Gould's Olympic dream is in tatters after being banned for two years following a positive test for a banned stimulant.
The International Rugby Board today announced its decision to ban the Queensland-based New Zealander following a disciplinary hearing in September, with the two-year period being the minimum sanction in accordance with the Wada code.
She will be eligible to re-enter the sport in January of 2015, but must now be considered a long shot to make it to the Rio Olympics.
Gould, formerly from Bay of Plenty, tested positive for methylhexaneamine (MHA), found in a dietary supplement she was using while competing for New Zealand at the Dubai sevens late in 2012.
It is classified under the Wada code as "performance-enhancing" but is only prohibited in-competition.
New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew announced the decision in Paris today and said he hoped the case sent out a strong warning to all New Zealand athletes who use supplements.
"It just reinforces how careful the athletes have to be across all sport," said Tew, admitting he was disappointed rugby's outstanding record in this area had been compromised.
"They're all taking supplements of some description and they've all got to be very, very careful because the regulation of supplements is nowhere near as strict as it is for medication.
"There is a risk, and it's definitely a conversation round the word of sport. Unfortunately we've now had first-hand experience of it.
Tew confirmed Gould claimed she had taken the banned substance unwittingly and it had been a genuine mistake.
"Lavinia has defended herself, saying her supplement was contaminated. We have no reason to disbelieve that, and her minimum suspension is a pretty good indication they also believe it was a mistake rather than anything deliberate."
The supplement containing the prohibited substance was not part of anything prescribed by the New Zealand sevens programme and team officials were not aware she was taking it.
Gould apparently told the hearing she had been sharing supplements taken by her sister who is a body builder, and that was factored into the decision.
Tew said she would be welcomed back to the women's sevens programme if "good enough" but "she would have lost a bit of ground".
The New Zealand rugby boss said all its players are educated and warned about the dangers of prohibited substances, but he admitted supplements were a mrky area that needed extra vigilance.
"One of the problems with supplements is they don't go through the same regulatory process, and it's nowhere near as tight a process as they have for medications. I know Sport NZ is working on that problem."
Tew said any positive test like this was disappointing for a sports organisation but he stood by rugby's near clean record in this area. He was not aware of any other positive results pending.
In the last five years 1720 tests have been carried out in New Zealand, resulting in two minor violations involving Kiwi players.
"It's a very small number but one is too many," added Tew. "We've got to go back and make sure we give the athletes the best chance we can to make right decisions."
- © Fairfax NZ News