While we’re yet to see an official announcements from either BUCS or BAFA, the BUCS website tells the story:
Despite appearing to lock up the Premiership North title with their win this past weekend, the Durham Saints have been stripped of five of their seven wins this season.
We’ll bring you updates and analysis on this breaking story as we learn more!
DC first broke news of the Saints’ starting QB’s possible suspension last week.
The former NCAA Division III Quarterback, Dominic Bona, was suspended from the top tier Finnish Maple League during the summer of 2016 for use of performance enhancing drugs.
As of yet, it’s unclear whether Bona’s Finnish suspension is also the cause of his suspension from BUCS sport, or a separate incident, or even whether the current situation is necessarily anything to do with the controversial quarterback. who led the Saints as the number one offence in the top tier through their first five fixtures.
However, Bona was conspicuously absent from the Saints’ most recent two outings, and these are notably the two fixtures for which the Saints have been permitted to keep their wins.
We’re hearing from sources with information direct from BUCS that the sanctions have been enforced not in direct relation to Bona’s use of PEDs, but rather indirectly.
The ruling from BUCS is that Durham unknowingly competed for five fixtures with an ineligible player, owing to the fact that Bona was playing in the UK despite still serving a suspension handed down by the Finnish leagues.
However, as this information was never disclosed to Durham University or the Saints coaching staff, the sanctions have not been counted as ‘voluntary’ walkovers, as they Saints did now knowingly breach BUCS regulations.
Breaking it down:
Looking into the conference’s results and we can see the Saints’ first five fixtures of the season have been awarded as walkovers:
What’s notable however is that while these fixtures have been awarded as walkover victories to their opponents, and it appears all points scored/conceded in these fixtures have been discounted, Durham have not suffered the -2 points deduction that is normally enforced when a team has a walkover awarded against them – which means that Durham are still sat in a playoff berth.
That said, they’re no longer a dead cert, as the Saints could still potentially miss out on postseason balling should the cards fall against them on Sunday:
Were the Saints to lose this weekend to the new #1 seed from the north, the Stirling Clansmen, and the NTU Renegades to snatch a win from a shaken looking Derby Braves team, the Durham side could yet find themselves in the relegation berth that the Renegades have held all year – as the first tiebreaker when teams are tied on points is that any team with walkovers awarded against them can be placed below those without!
The specific stipulation here is whether the walkover are counted as ‘voluntary’ or ‘involuntary’. In this instance, they have been ruled as involuntary walkovers, meaning the it will be down to BUCS to rule on a ‘on a case by case basis’. Perhaps it’s unlikely BUCS will choose to enforce this regulation after having not enforced the -2 points for the walkover.
Durham University have released a statement in response to the BUCS ruling:
“It has recently come to our attention that one of our students is subject to a four year ban from all sport, following an Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV).
“Durham University strongly condemns the use of performance-enhancing drugs and other doping behaviour, and provides a high level of anti-doping education to coaches, staff and students to protect the legitimacy of sport and integrity of clean athletes.”
Quentin Sloper, Director of Experience Durham, Durham University
Comments on the ruling:
“After weeks of rumour and hearsay – with none of the parties involved wanting to go on the record – BUCS’ decision seems to have been made. Stripping the team of all five of the wins Bona was involved in shows that BUCS have taken the accusation seriously enough, without conferring any kind of ‘death penalty’ on the programme. Questions now have to be asked about how much Durham knew about Bona’s ban before offering him a scholarship, and also whether the university’s AU will look to punish the team in any way. The most immediate impact will be on the play-offs, with Durham now likely to be on the road against Birmingham or Hertfordshire in the opening round.”
– Thomas Snee, DC Premiership North Conference Correspondent