Centurions hooker gives up fight in drugs ban

Sean Penkywicz
Sean Penkywicz

Leigh Centurions hooker Sean Penkywicz has declared that he has given up his fight against a drugs ban from UKAD for a positive test for the substance GHRP6.

Penkywicz has strongly denied taking the substance, which is normally injected, although it can be administered in creams and gels, but has had to reluctantly accept his fate and a two- year ban from the sport having run out of avenues to explore.

The analytic finding came from a sample provided on 5th December 2014, during the off season testing, when Penkywicz, recovering from injury, was not in full training.

The sample was declared negative of the substances it was tested for at the time on the 16th December 2014.

However, on January 27 2015 UKAD requested further testing of the sample, specifically Growth Hormone Releasing Factor (GHRF). The sample was then tested on 19th February 2015 before being returned to the freezer.

On March 13 2015 GHRP analysis was undertaken with the following recording: “Confirmation data does not meet required criteria.”

The sample was again tested on 25th March 2015 with GHRP6 being confirmed on 2nd April 2015. Penkywicz, who had no knowledge of the additional tests being undertaken, was also tested on April 2 which was negative of analytical finding.

Penkywicz said: “When I received the letter from UKAD on April 11 and then the RFL the same day, I was in complete shock. I was feeling low as I had sustained a knee and hip injury and needed an operation on my knee. I just couldn’t believe what I was reading I couldn’t make sense of it.

“I have been banned previously so I am very aware of the pitfalls and would never risk the same situation again. I spoke to Derek (Beaumont, Head of Rugby Leigh Centurions) about the situation and he was very supportive and I found some comfort in the fact he believed what I was telling him. There simply had to be a mistake.

“Derek appointed a solicitor who specialises in the field to challenge the circumstances as I am adamant I haven’t injected myself. I always kept that glimmer of hope that there had been a mistake, some form of contamination or a faulty test as apparently this is a new form of testing.

“I couldn’t understand why I had been told my sample was negative and then it had been tested again many months later. The fact that, even then, it hadn’t shown immediately positive and required a number of tests before producing a positive result concerned me.

“I clung to the hope that all this would be sorted out by the time I had recovered from my knee op. I don’t understand the science of testing, but I understand what I do with my body, so I needed to fight this.

“I paid for my B sample to be tested and visited London on 13th May 2015 to watch it take place, believing this process would vindicate me, but they sent it back with a positive result. This added more confusion, when according to the RFL website regarding testing, it states that your B sample will be destroyed after a negative test which should have happened with my December sample, yet this was still available for testing in May some six months later.”

Penkywicz added: “This really has hit me hard as I just can’t understand it and I am now legally advised I need to accept a two year ban, which essentially ends my career at a time when I was finding some of my best form.

“It is so frustrating and angers me to be told I have put something into my body when I know I haven’t. I want to keep fighting but it is just making me ill and there simply is nothing more in the tank.

“My knee and hip have made a full recovery but I didn’t win the fight to clear my name to match that recovery and re-join my team mates in the challenge we set ourselves.

“I would like to thank them for their support and for believing in me. I would also like to thank Derek and the Board of Directors for all their support, belief and understanding.

“I wished I could say I am sorry I have let everyone down but I cannot as I have not knowingly injected myself with drugs. This will bring a bad cloud over the Club, I know, and there is never a good time for bad news but the fight is over.

“I would like to thank all my loyal supporters and those fans in anticipation of their support on the breaking of this news.

“Most of all I would like to thank my wife and family for their support and belief in me, without which I think this, may have made me go crazy.

“My main aim now is to minimise the impact this has on them and in particular my children who mean the world to me.

“Therefore, I would be grateful if people could respect their privacy. Maybe when this is all over I will find some fight to finish things on the pitch on my terms at some level. Who knows? Right now I am completely disillusioned with the sport.”

Leigh Centurions owner and Head of Rugby Derek Beaumont said: “Sean was adamant that he had not taken anything that he shouldn’t have. Therefore, we took specialist legal advice in relation to the RFL charge.

“Unfortunately for him and many other athletes that find themselves in this situation, athletes are strictly responsible for ensuring that no prohibited substances enter their body.

“If they fail a test, then they have to prove how it entered their system which can be near on impossible in cases of contamination etc.

“As a club we do not condone drug taking and promote a clean environment. We cooperate with UKAD and have been subjected to a significant amount of testing this season including home visits probably as a result of this.

“It is always difficult to argue with facts but I believe in Sean. He has nothing to gain by protesting his innocence to me. I really do feel for him as I know him personally away from the sport and he is a fantastic family man.

“It was a huge blow for the club as he had been in outstanding form and just agreed an extension for next year.

“It is perhaps rather apt that he was awarded Man of the Match in what now transpires to be his last game of Rugby League.

“He will remain a friend of mine and I will remember him for his fantastic contribution to our club and would hope our loyal fans can do the same.”