Olympic distance runner Zane Robertson of New Zealand has been slapped with an eight-year ban from competitive sports by the Sports Tribunal of New Zealand. This verdict comes in response to his failure of a drug test and his involvement in tampering with the doping control process. The tribunal’s decision was announced recently.
Known for his achievements as the New Zealand record holder in marathon, half marathon, and road 10km races, Robertson’s downfall began when he tested positive for erythropoietin (EPO), a hormone that regulates red blood cell production in the kidneys. Athletes using EPO can experience heightened oxygen supply to muscles, which in turn boosts recovery and endurance. The incident took place during a race in Manchester, England, in May of the previous year.
The 33-year-old athlete received a four-year suspension for the initial positive test and an additional four-year ban after the tribunal ruled that he had deliberately manipulated the doping control process. Robertson’s defense strategy included a claim that he had sought medical attention in Kenya for a Covid-19 vaccine, but he later asserted that the treatment had been for Covid-19 itself and had involved EPO administration.
To support this claim, Robertson presented sworn affidavits from Kenyan doctors, along with hospital notes, a hospital report, and even a witness statement from a Kenyan detective. He contended that he bore no fault or negligence in the matter. However, Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFSNZ), the opposing party in the tribunal, pointed out the implausibility of Robertson’s treatment account. They introduced evidence from the vice president of the medical center Robertson claimed to have visited. This individual contradicted Robertson’s claims by stating that no EPO was administered at the facility and that the submitted medical notes were inauthentic. Moreover, DFSNZ revealed that one of the doctors Robertson mentioned was not even associated with the facility.
The tribunal concluded that Robertson had presented falsified documents and false testimony, which he ultimately chose not to contest after opting not to rely on his original evidence. Robertson’s legal representative refrained from providing comments on the tribunal’s decision.
DFSNZ’s Chief Executive Nick Paterson emphasized the impact of doping on fair competition, stating that such actions tarnish the integrity of sports. Robertson’s actions, according to Paterson, were not just disappointing but also undermined the principles of sporting honesty that New Zealand athletes are expected to uphold.
In a social media post from February, Robertson hinted at his withdrawal from professional running, expressing his newfound enjoyment of the sport for what it is. He also highlighted the challenges he faced from external factors, indicating the pressures that can erode an athlete’s passion.
Throughout his career, Robertson had the honor of competing at the Olympic Games in both Tokyo (2021) and Rio (2016). His accolades include a Commonwealth Games bronze medal earned in Glasgow (2014).
With the tribunal’s verdict, Robertson faces ineligibility for competitive sports, including coaching, until September 2030. Furthermore, his performance in the Great Manchester Run from the previous May will be nullified, leaving an indelible mark on his once-illustrious career.