Michael Ellerton had used friend's medication to treat mouth ulcers; UKAD says anti-doping rule violation was "involuntary"...

A 55-year-old amateur cyclist from Burnley has been banned from all sport for two years after testing positive for banned substances that he said were contained in medication given to him by a friend before a race to treat his mouth ulcers.

Michael Ellerton, from Burnley, tested positive for the glucocorticoids prednisone and prednisolone following an in-competition test at the Port Talbot Wheelers Cycling Club’s 25 Mile Time Trial on 11 September 2016, organised under Cycling Time Trials (CTT) rules.

UK Anti-doping (UKAD) says that “Glucocorticoids are currently prohibited in-competition, when administered by a systemic route of administration (orally, rectally, intravenously or intramuscularly),” but “are permitted out-of-competition regardless of the route of administration.”

Ellerton, who was a member of the North Yorkshire-based Team Swift Cycling, said a friend had given him a packet of ten 5mg Prednisolone Tablets to treat his mouth ulcers and that he took two a day for five days in the lead-up to the event.

As a national- rather than international-level athlete, UKAD invited him to apply for a retrospective Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) but when he did so, its TUE Committee held that he did not meet the conditions for one to be issued.

In its decision, the TUE Committee said:

(a) The TUE Committee are unable to approve TUEs for Athletes who have self-medicated using

another person’s prescription medication,

(b) the Athlete did not seek medical advice prior to using the drugs.

(c) There is no evidence to show that the athlete would experience a significant impairment to

health if the Prohibited Substance been withheld.

(d) There are permitted therapeutic alternatives

(e) Glucocorticoids have the potential to performance enhance.

UKAD accepted that his committing an anti-doping rule violation was not intentional and was out-of-competition which, together with his prompt admission, led to him being banned him for two years, instead of the maximum four that would otherwise have applied.

It noted however that he had “used the medication without undertaking any research into its ingredients or any further checks,” including that he “failed to conduct any rudimentary internet research into the medication.”

The ban was backdated to 11 September 2016, the date of the positive test, and will expire at midnight on 10 September 2018.

UKAD Director of Operations, Pat Myhill said: “The World Anti-Doping Code is based on the principle of strict liability – every athlete, no matter what level, is solely responsible for any prohibited substance which is found in their system, regardless of how it got there or whether there was an intention to cheat or not.

“Athletes can easily check the prohibited status of medications before use by visiting Global DRO,” he added.

While Ellerton’s anti-doping rule violation was held to have been unintentional, UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead has expressed in recent days her concerns over doping among amateur athletes.

Responding the findings of a BBC Sport survey of amateur sportsmen and women, she said that doping in amateur sport as a whole is “becoming a crisis.”

> Doping in amateur sport “becoming a crisis” says UK Anti-doping boss

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.