Weightlifter praised for courage
The young weightlifter who alerted authorities to his coach’s attempts to supply him with steroids and performance-enhancing prohibited substances has been praised for having the courage to speak out.
Graeme Steel, the chief executive of Drug Free Sport New Zealand, says the aspiring weightlifter, referred to as X in Sports Tribunal proceedings to protect his identity, deserves credit after his testimony resulted in weightlifting coach Daniel Milne being suspended for six years for trafficking in and possession of prohibited substances.
“We really need to give plaudits to the young guy that was prepared to come forward,” Mr Steel said.
“Coaches who have an authority over athletes and should have the respect of athletes, if they are the ones that are promoting drugs to athletes then that is, in our view, the most serious form of doping.”
Milne admitted both charges, which stem from December 2012, when he offered to supply steroids and other performance-enhancing prohibited substances to the 19-year-old weightlifter he was coaching.
Milne held a party at his house where he showed X some of these products, offered to source them for him and show him how to use them, to improve his competitive weightlifting performance.
This is the first anti-doping violation involving attempted trafficking in New Zealand.
The minimum penalty for attempted trafficking is four years’ suspension from sport; the maximum penalty is a life ban.
Overseas cases have imposed penalties ranging from four years’ suspension to a life ban, depending on the circumstances of each case.
“We’re sure it’s not the only one that is occurring around the country day by day but it is the first one that we’ve been able to get some evidence around and put someone in front of the tribunal,” Mr Steel explained.
“We have a very good relationship with Weightlifting New Zealand. We’ve not had evidence of serious issues in the past.
“Internationally it is a sport with serious problems. We haven’t been able to uncover those in New Zealand and it is good that we’ve been able to nip this case in the bud.”
The tribunal noted there were aggravating factors here including that: the violations happened within an athlete and coach relationship; X was a young man who should have received mentoring and support and not been encouraged to take prohibited substances; and this was not a one-off spontaneous mistake but reflected Milne’s unacceptable attitude towards use of prohibited substances then.
In the tribunal’s view, without considering any mitigating factors, a starting point of seven to eight years’ suspension would apply in these circumstances.
Milne eventually admitted the violations and accepted responsibility for what occurred, meaning X and other witnesses didn’t have to give evidence at the hearing.
“The thing that seems to have turned Daniel Milne around was coming back to his family values and talking to his family about what had gone on [and], as a result of those discussions, deciding to do the right thing and admit the charge,” said Mr Steel.
He said Milne’s problems with banned substances stemmed from a wider societal problem around body image.
“It seems to be indicative of somebody who has got into a crowd which is more about size and body shape rather than sport. It’s part of a wider issue around young people wanting to get big and cut.”
The tribunal ordered the six-year period start from January 1 this year, to take account of the delay in the matter being referred to it.