Karl Murray has been suspended for 8 years by the Sports Tribunal of New Zealand for drug use. It is the second time that Murray has been suspended after being previously suspended following the Tour of New Caledonia. His second suspension came after being caught at the Tour of Northland.
A sample taken from Karl Murray at the Tour of Northland on 18th March 2017 was found to contain the substance Clenbuterol; a non-specified substance prohibited at all times. This followed an earlier ban by the New Caledonia Anti-Doping Commission in 2014, who banned Murray following a positive test there. After that ban was recognised by the UCI in April 2015 – allowing the ban to be recognised in New Zealand – it was then discovered that Murray had coached athletes; which was prohibited under the ban. After Drug Free Sport New Zealand brought the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport concerning this breach of suspension, Murray’s ban was restarted on 15th December 2017.
For athletes who commit a second doping violation, the sanction is required to be ‘twice the period of ineligibility’ as for the first doping violation. In Murray’s case that means that he will undergo suspension for 8 years, a sanction backdated to commence from 11th May 2017.
Karl Murray has issued a statement in which he has continued to protest his innocence in the matter. A full statement from Karl Murray is below:
“I am deeply disappointed at the result of the Sports Tribunal decision. At no time in my cycling career, or afterwards, have I ever taken a banned substance and to now face an 8 year ban is unjust. I am a strong believer in the anti-doping regime which WADA supervises, but it is hard to not be cynical about it given what has happened to me.
“At the very end of my professional cycling career I tested positive for a steroid in New Caledonia. I had never taken the steroid, and I suspected that the test result was from contamination. I was able to get some testing done of some of the supplements I used at the time and although testing confirmed some contamination it didn’t account for all metabolites found in my test. It wasn’t possible to test all of the food, drinks and supplements that I used after I was notified of the test result. So accordingly I couldn’t “prove” the result was from contamination.
“The New Caledonian anti-doping authority was not WADA compliant, and the result of that process was initially a regional ban. That wasn’t ideal, but I felt that I had to live with it and get on with my life post cycling, including running my cycling business.
“That ban was recognised by the UCI without me having any chance to challenge that decision. What this meant was that the ban became global, and it meant I couldn’t do any licensed coaching or anything cycle race related in NZ. Again, that isn’t fair when your career is in cycling, but I had to live with it.
“At the end of my ban, literally in the last few days of it, DFSNZ started a new case alleging I was coaching in breach of my ban. I wasn’t, and I defended that claim in the Sports Tribunal, winning that case. DFSNZ appealed that decision to CAS, and although I was partially successful there, CAS found that I was coaching in breach and I had to start over serving my New Caledonian ban again.
“Between the successful Tribunal decision, and the CAS decision, I decided I’d ride the Tour of Northland. I had long since retired from competitive racing, so I was really doing this as something fun with some friends. What I now know is that DFSNZ targeted me for testing at the Tour. I don’t know why they did that, but they tested me and the test was positive for another banned substance, clenbuterol.
“I had never taken clenbuterol. Why would I? I was tested numerous times during my racing career, and never tested positive because I never took anything illegal. Why would I do so now? Again, I suspected contamination, perhaps even deliberate contamination, but it is impossible to prove.
“Even though I gave evidence that the DFSNZ tester didn’t follow proper protocol process (including not allowing my support person to see me during testing and providing me with an unsealed collection vessel), and that DFSNZ’s own witnesses were inconsistent on their evidence on the process, the Tribunal accepted there was no evidence of improper process or other possible contamination and upheld my test. I wanted to get some scientific testing done to show that I was not using any prohibited substances, but I couldn’t get a laboratory to do it – in part because labs that worked for WADA aren’t allowed to act for athletes. It is almost impossible for an athlete to defend an anti-doping case unless they can categorically show why a test result has happened – even in cases like mine where it makes no sense for me to be taking the substances alleged.
“The Tribunal has now said that I must serve an 8 year ban for the positive clenbuterol test. They say that because they consider the New Caledonian matter to be a ‘first offence’ even though it wasn’t a process under the WADA code. Again, that to me seems incredibly unfair. I have always known that this kind of ban is what athletes who dope risk facing, why would I risk my post-racing career in this way? It makes no sense but because the onus is on the athlete, 100%, to prove their innocence, in circumstance of complex testing procedures and science, the nonsense conclusion prevails.
“I now have to think about what, if anything, I can do to continue to fight this. I’ve already won some of the fight along the way, only to have part of that success overturned on appeal. I don’t know that I have the energy or resources to continue fighting. Particularly when the odds are against you from the start. But cycling is a big part of my life. I run a bike shop, and it is now unclear whether this ban will impact on that too – for both my staff and I.
“At the moment I have nothing further to say.”