Toronto Wolfpack prop Ryan Bailey has escaped a possible four-year ban for refusing to submit to a doping test.
The former Great Britain and England rugby league international won his case against U.K. Anti-Doping in a Dec. 8 ruling released Wednesday.
Bailey refused the test after fearing the water he was given to drink to facilitate providing a sample was contaminated.
"Having heard Mr. Bailey give evidence we do not for one moment think that he is a cheat or was trying to cover up drug taking," said the ruling by an independent National Anti-Doping Panel tribunal. "Indeed, we note that a few days later Mr. Bailey did in fact undergo a drug test (which was negative) without any problem."
While ruling for Bailey, the panel called it "a truly exceptional case on its own very special facts and psychological evidence" and stressed it should "not be taken as any sort of precedent for other cases."
There was no definitive answer to what the special circumstances were. The medical and psychiatric evidence was redacted in the version made available to the public.
The Wolfpack are the lone North American franchise competing in England's Rugby Football League. Toronto won the third-tier Kingstone Press League 1 last season to win promotion to the second-tier Championship.
The 33-year-old Bailey was selected to be tested by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, on behalf of the U.K. anti-doping agency, at a training session May 30 at Toronto's Lamport Stadium.
According to the ruling, Bailey ultimately refused to submit a sample after complaining that the bottle of water offered to him by the tester to hydrate did not "crack" when opened and that he feared it might be contaminated.
The ruling said he was co-operative initially but changed his mind on submitting on his third bottle of water, when he expressed concern.
"I thought I was being fitted up," Bailey said in his witness statement. "Something did not seem right."
He also declined to submit to a blood test out of concern over the water.
While the panel concluded that Bailey's "sudden swing from evident co-operation to downright refusal was entirely irrational" and that the player had been warned of the consequences of failing to submit, it said Bailey's "mind was quite unable to take in or process this information."
"On this basis we do not believe it to be right to conclude that he was at fault or negligent."
The legal team representing Bailey and the Wolfpack had also argued the testing procedure was flawed. The tribunal said while there were "departures" from protocol, "we do not think it fair to criticize the CCES for the fairly informal way" in which the testing was conducted."
The Wolfpack welcomed the 22-page decision, which followed a three-day hearing.
"The correct verdict has been returned," said Brian Noble, Toronto's director of rugby.
Bailey, a veteran of more than 300 Super League games, is currently in camp with the Wolfpack in England.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press