An Independent Appeal Panel consisting of Gerard Elias QC, John Dawes and Keith Rowlands today (Thursday, 20 May) heard appeals from 17 players and the Honorary Secretary of Penygraig RFC following their suspensions for failing to submit to official drug testing procedures at the end of the Silver Ball Final game against Pontypridd at Llanharan RFC on 14 May, 2003.
The Panel decided to reduce the suspensions on the players from 18 months to 15 months and the three year ban imposed on the Honorary Secretary, Peter Bowen, to two years.
The 17 players who requested appeal hearings were: Ian Jones, Ian Deasy, Geraint Long, Gavin Owen, Gareth Davies, Gareth James, Gareth Blaken, Dean Perry, Carl Hammans, Andrew Thomas, Adrian Lewis, Mark Bowcott, Matthew Hutchings, Nigel Hendy, Paul Dunning, Peter Hinken, Richard Thomas. Anthony Lloyd and Stephen Walker did not request their cases to be reviewed.
At an early hearing, the charges against three other members of the Penygraig team on 14 May, 2003, Shane McIntosh, Nick Jones and Jason Ronan, each of whom had pleaded not guilty to refusing to provide a sample, were dismissed.
At another hearing on 28 and 29 July, 2003, the WRU decided not to proceed with a case against the Penygraig chairman, Neil Roper, after considering all the evidence. However, at that time Peter Bowen, the Honorary Secretary, admitted having 'wilfully obstructed or interfered' with the carrying out of doping control tests.
Gerard Elias QC, the chairman of the Independent Appeal Panel appointed by the Welsh Rugby Union to hear the appeals of the 17 players and the Honorary Secretary said: "The Appeal Panel felt able to give a modest discount on the penalty originally imposed on the players because we recognised that the testing of the whole squad was unique, that to an extent there was confusion within the squad and that some of the players, who cannot be identified, would have been influenced by the actions of others."
In relation to the appeal by the Honorary Secretary, the Panel took into account that he had entered a guilty plea at an early stage and some additional mitigation pleaded by both his solicitor and himself. In the end, having reviewed all the circumstances, the panel felt able to reduce his suspension from three years to two.
However, the Panel was very keen to underline the fact that the use of drugs in sport is a great and dangerous evil. The Welsh Rugby Union is already active in taking steps to discourage and eliminate the use of drugs in their game. The co-operation of all players and officials is essential to this process and those who do not co-operate should expect significant penalties.
David Moffett, Group Chief Executive of the WRU said: "We are pleased to finally see an end to this case, which has highlighted the commitment of the WRU to uphold the regulations regarding drug testing in our sport. We feel that our actions have been fully justified and that the procedures adopted by both the WRU and UK Sport have been vindicated.
"There is no place in sport for illegal drugs and we expect shortly to announce that even tougher anti-doping procedures are to be introduced into rugby union in conjunction with the world governing body, the International
Wales Under 18 captain Callum Bradbury is delighted to have seen his side claim a narrow 18-17 victory against a strong SA Schools 'A' side to end the three-match Under 19 International Series in South Africa on a high note.
The Wales U18 squad spent an emotional day in the drug-riddled townnship of Hout Bay. Hout Bay Warriors President Fred Johannes said the visit was 'the talk of the town' and will dream about the day everyday for the rest of his life.
RGC 1404's new head coach Mark Jones is hoping to build 'something special' in north Wales and is already looking forward to the development region participating in the Principality Premiership for the very first time.
A joint venture between the WRU and Admiral saw hundreds of children enjoy the Admiral Festival of Rugby held at the National Centre of Excellence at the weekend where Welsh internationals Sam Warburton, Scott Williams and Rob Evans were in attendance.
Wll Jones leads Wales U18s into battle this afternoon against Italy where the Welsh side will be seeking to bounce back from their narrow defeat to SA Schools in their opening clash of the U19 International Series
All four regions attended a successful training camp staged last weekend at the WRU National Centre of Excellence. It was a chance for new Wales Women's head coach Rowland Phillips to deliver his key messages to players and coaches as he prepares for the new season.
Wales U18 Team Manager Gethin Watts believes the next couple of weeks will be 'extremely beneficial' to the future of Welsh rugby as his side prepare to take part in the Under 19 International Series being staged in South Africa.
The WRU is searching for 12 new rugby development apprentices following a successful first year of its WRU Coach Core programme. Craig Duncan and Jess Hancock have flourished in the first year of the programme which has given them a real direction in their lives.
The WRU signed TV comedian Rhod Gilbert up to a 'Coaching Children Level 1' course before letting him loose on an U8s side at Whitland Junior Borderers - we went behind the scenes to film the making of 'Rhod Gilbert's Work Experience' see the results here.
Llandovery are aiming to make it three titles in a row in this year's Foster's National 7s being held at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday 28 August. Drovers assistant coach Simon Davies and Lee Rees assess their sides chances
A pioneering strength and conditioning programme has been delivered to more than 8000 boys and girls at hub schools throughout Wales this season, helping to develop stronger, more flexible athletes for rugby and other sports.
The Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series returns to the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on July 22nd when all four Welsh regions go head to head. Scarlets skills coach Dai Flanagan and Blues Elite Performance Pathway Manager Richard Hodges along with current Welsh squad members were at the launch of this season's event