22 Mar 2023

Comm Games bronze medallist cops 8-year ban for doping

10:58 am on 22 March 2023
New Zealand's Zane Robertson after winning the bronze medal in the Men's 5000 metre final. Track and Field at Hampden Park. Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014. Sunday 27 July 2014. Scotland. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/www.Photosport.co.nz

Zane Robertson won Commonwealth Games bronze in 2014. Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.co.nz

Olympian Zane Robertson has been banned from all sport for eight years following a positive test for erythropoietin (EPO) and providing false documentation in his defence.

The distance runner, a New Zealand record holder who represented New Zealand at the Rio and Tokyo Olympics and won 5000m bronze at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, was tested at the UK's Great Manchester Run in May 2022.

Robertson, who trains in Kenya, returned a positive result for EPO, which was later confirmed through B-sample testing.

An additional charge of Tampering with Doping Control was added when documents submitted by Robertson in his defence were found to be fraudulent.

"Doping denies clean athletes the chance to excel on a level playing field," said Drug Free Sport New Zealand chief executive Nick Paterson.

"Mr Robertson's actions are not just deeply disappointing, but undermine the high levels of sporting integrity we see and expect from athletes who represent our country."

EPO is on the World Anti-Doping Agency's Prohibited List and is banned at all times. It artificially enhances performance in endurance sport by boosting red blood cells. Anti-doping sanctions for the substance are uncommon in New Zealand.

New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Nicki Nicol also condemned Robertson's actions.

"The offences committed by Zane Robertson are deeply disappointing and his actions go against everything the New Zealand Team stands for.

"We condemn all forms of doping. Every athlete has the right to compete on an even playing field and Robertson's actions have undermined the integrity of sport.

"We thank Drug Free Sport New Zealand for their commitment to supporting the New Zealand athletes who are proud to compete cleanly. We also acknowledge Athletics NZ, DFSNZ and HPSNZ for extending wellbeing support to Robertson."

Athletics NZ chief executive Pete Pfitzinger expressed his disappointment and sadness, before reiterating his organisation's commitment to clean sport.

"We strongly condemn all forms of doping in our sport and as a supporter of the World Anti-Doping Code and SADR, we reiterate our strict anti-doping stance."

"We provide anti-doping education via our national anti-doping organisation, DFSNZ, and we fully support the testing protocols in our sport to ensure a level playing field for all. As an organisation we take athlete welfare very seriously, so we understand the anxiety and stress that Zane will be experiencing.

"As soon as he received notification of the positive test for EPO last year, we offered and have provided extensive wellbeing support alongside High Performance Sport New Zealand and we will continue to provide support during this challenging time. We appreciate DFSNZ's consideration of the athlete's wellbeing throughout this process."

Paterson took the opportunity to remind athletes that a ban from sport includes a ban from coaching, "Any athlete who accepts coaching from Mr Robertson during his ban is at risk of a ban themselves."

Robertson's ban will be backdated from the date of his provisional suspension in September 2022.

His result from the Great Manchester Run will be disqualified.

High Performance Sport New Zealand director of high performance Steve Tew said they were extremely disappointed.

"HPSNZ fully supports the ban handed down to Robertson by the Sports Tribunal, and we support and thank Drug Free Sport NZ for the work they have done in relation to this issue.

"Robertson had received HPSNZ funding as a carded and tailored athlete pathway support (TAPS) athlete for a number of years, but he was not nominated for TAPS beyond December 2022.

"While HPSNZ condemns Robertson's actions, we are also committed to ensuring athlete wellbeing, and we are working closely with Athletics NZ to ensure the athlete receives the necessary support during this time."