16th Feb 2021 | News

Thomas Horton, instructed by Mills & Reeve, has successfully represented Nathaniel Mendez-Laing before an FA Regulatory Commission.

The Middlesbrough FC player had provided an in-competition urine sample to The FA on 4 July 2020 while playing for Cardiff City FC. Analysis of the sample disclosed the presence of metabolites of cocaine. In August 2020 Mr Mendez-Laing was subsequently charged with a violation of the FA’s Anti-Doping Regulations 2019/2020 (“FAADR”) and provisionally suspended from all football activity. Mr Mendez-Laing admitted the charge, and an FA Regulatory Commission was convened to decide on the appropriate sanction to be imposed for the FAADR violation.

Pursuant to the FAADR Mr Mendez-Laing was facing a possible sanction of a suspension from all football activity for 1-2 years. However, between Mr Mendez-Laing being charged and before the matter came before the FA Regulatory Commission, the 2021 WADA Code (“the 2021 Code”) had come into effect.

The 2021 Code includes new provisions dealing with ‘Substances of Abuse’, such as cocaine, and provides more lenient sanctions for the same. Thomas Horton successfully argued that the principle of lex mitior applied to Mr Mendez-Laing’s case to allow him to benefit from the more lenient sanctions available under the 2021 Code despite the same not being effective at the time of Mr Mendez-Laing’s FAADR violation. Consequently, Mr Mendez-Laing was sanctioned with a three-month suspension, which, considering his provisional suspension since August 2020, ceased immediately.

Click here to view The FA’s announcement of the decision and to see the FA Regulatory Commission’s written reasons.

Click here to read Thomas Horton’s analysis of the decision published on Football Law.


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