December 11, 2017 / 12:00 AM / a year ago

Ice hockey brothers first bans after NZ drug probe

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Two brothers who played ice hockey for New Zealand have become the first athletes to be banned after an investigation into the sale of performance-enhancing drugs to amateur sportspeople in the country.

Mitchell and Lachlan Frear have been banned for two years by the Sports Tribunal of New Zealand (STNZ) after they purchased the banned substance clenbuterol from an illegal distributor in 2014.

The duo are among up to 100 athletes at the lower levels of several sports who have been implicated in the investigation after the imprisonment earlier this year of the owner of a website that sold banned substances.

The website owner Josh Townshend was jailed in May for two years for advertising, possession and supplying prescription medication.

Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFSNZ) investigated Townshend’s database and found up to 100 sportspeople as potential clients. None were considered to be participating among the higher echelons of New Zealand sport.

DFSNZ, however, initiated disciplinary proceedings against the people identified, chief executive Nick Paterson said as all participants who were members of national sports organizations were subject to anti-doping policies.

Mitchell Frear said at the hearing he had gained weight while studying and purchased clenbuterol from the website as it had been advertised as a fat burning weight-loss product.

Lachlan, who was 18 at the time, had also been targeted by ads from the website that described the product as a “fat-burner”. Both said they never received the product and thought they had been caught in an online scam.

The STNZ said in their judgment that while there was little evidence they had used the product they were guilty of attempting to procure a substance on the prohibited list and banned for two years, backdated to Jan. 1 2017.

DFSNZ has said they expect more cases to be heard until well into 2018.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney

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