Wihongi handed four-month ban
Sale Sharks have revealed their prop Karena Wihongi has received a four-month ban after testing positive for a banned stimulant.
Wihongi, 31, appeared before a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel earlier this month.
He had been provisionally suspended by the RFU from playing and training on January 28 after a positive test for the stimulant methylhexaneamine following an Aviva Premiership game between Sale and Newcastle at Kingston Park three weeks earlier. Wihongi is banned until May 27, sidelining him for the rest of this season.
Wihongi, who was born in New Zealand but is qualified to play for France, joined Sale last year following stints with French clubs Oyonnax and Bourgoin.
Both the player and his club made representations to the RFU panel that the stimulant entered Wihongi's system without his knowledge or what Sale described in a statement as "without any pre-meditated plan to gain an advantage".
The Sharks said: "It was demonstrated to the panel that the stimulant became present via a contaminated product that was available through the club's supplements programme.
"When the product in question was supplied to the club it was issued with a batch test certificate that showed no traces of any banned substance. The ingredients of the product had previously been checked and all had been cleared."
Under the terms of his ban, which runs from the date of his provisional suspension, Wihongi is not able to participate in playing, training, coaching, officiating, selection, team management, administration or promotion of the game.
The club continued: "Sale Sharks would like to place on record our full support for the UK anti-doping testing programme. There is no place in sport for drug cheats, and the penalties enforced for those that attempt to gain an advantage by using banned substances are correct and appropriate.
"However, the club are frustrated and disappointed with the verdict given to a player who, without his knowledge, took a product that was wrongly contaminated. While the player and the club have the right to appeal the verdict, they will not be doing so. Karena Wihongi retains the full support of the club, and we look forward to his return to playing."