'I'll be back!' Robbie Powell vows to return to swimming after anti-doping ban

By Brendan O'Brien

Robbie Powell admitted the violation but maintained it was not intentional, which Sport Ireland have accepted. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Robbie Powell admitted the violation but maintained it was not intentional, which Sport Ireland have accepted. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Irish international swimmer Robbie Powell has declared his intention to return to the sport after being handed a one-year anti-doping ban for accidental use of a banned substance.

The Athlone man used a cream called Trofodermin, an anabolic agent that contains a prohibited substance called clostebol, to treat a case of eczema on his hand last November. He then failed an out-of-competition doping test taken either a day or two later.

The branding and colour of the product is similar to that of another called Denvercort which does not contain any banned substances and which was given to him by the Irish team medic at the Youth Olympics in Argentina in 2018.

Powell accepted the violation but stated that it was not intentional.

Sport Ireland, while concerned with his inability to explain how he came to possess the Trofadermin, took the view that it “arguably lends to the credibility of the athlete's explanation as a fabricated explanation may well have sought to explain this anomaly”.

The body ultimately declared itself satisfied with his explanation of events and a suspension that could have stretched to between two and four years was reduced to 12 months, starting from the date of the failed test.

A WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) accredited lab in Rome, which is an expert in clostebol, also confirmed that the concentration found in the athlete's sample – 1.3 nanograms per millilitre - was consistent with his explanation that he had applied a “pea-sized” amount to his hand.

"The past few months have been extremely rough for my family and me,” said Powell in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. “I have lost a lot, but gained even more mentally. I have a different outlook on life.

I learned that life isn't just about the goals I set in my sport and that there's more to me than my swimming ability. But my love for swimming, the friends I've made in the sport and my life long dreams, mean too much to me still. They are the reasons that I'll be back! I've missed my friends, along with the grind!

“Until then, and subject to the Covid-19 restrictions, I'll be focused on my training by myself. I would also like to educate other athletes about anti-doping rules where possible and make sure they don't make such a simple mistake like I did.” 

The now 20-year old is part of the national elite squad based in the National Aquatic Centre and he was a member of Ireland’s national record-breaking men’s 4x200m freestyle relay at the 2019 FINA World Aquatic Championships in Gwangju last July.

He acknowledged his mistake again in his statement and apologised to his supporters, teammates, and coaches while stressing again that it was an honest error on his part.

“Sport Ireland has confirmed that there was no intention to infringe the regulations which I fully support and have always been very careful to adhere to,” he explained. “I have always attended anti-doping sessions and will continue to do so.

“There was no performance-enhancing effects whatsoever. I have been training for the past ten years to get to this point in my career and I am very aware [of] the strict regulations that are in place. I would like to mention the courtesy shown towards me by Sport Ireland during this process which has been a very difficult few months.”

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