Halifax rugby league star spared jail for assaulting drugs tester

Sam Barlow
Sam Barlow

A former professional rugby league player from Halifax threatened to punch an anti-drugs official during a random doping test - telling him “I’m sick of you lot harassing me”.

Sam Barlow, 28, lost his temper at United Kingdom Anti-Doping (UKAD) official Mark Dean after being annoyed that the official showed up at his home in July 2015.

Barlow claimed he had mistaken Mr Dean for a burglar despite the official showing ID and carrying an anti-doping testing kit with him at the time, a court heard.

He was later banned from the sport for four years for interfering with a drugs test.

Ken Green, prosecuting at Bradford Crown Court today (Fri) said: “The defendant was a professional rugby league player at the time of the incident with Leigh Rugby League Football Club.

“In July 2015 he was living with his partner in Ovenden, near Halifax [West Yorks.].

“The complainant was an experienced officer having been in that job for 14 years.

“On July 31, 2015 he had been tasked by his employers to attend the home of the defendant to conduct a random drug test.

“He arrived at 8.45pm that evening and was clearly identifiable as a drug tester.

“He made his way to the front door with his testing kit. He rang the door bell, knocked the door and tried to rattle the letter box.

“Mr Dean went back to his vehicle but put his hand on the bonnet of the car to see if it was warm.

“A short time later the defendant’s partner came out of the house and Mr Dean showed his identification to her.

“He explained to her that he needed to speak to Sam Barlow.”

Mr Green told the court that Barlow came out of the house wearing just a pair of shorts and started pointing and gesticulating towards Mr Dean and tried to accuse him of breaking into his home.

Mr Dean then showed Barlow his identification to prove who he was.

Mr Green continued: “The defendant said ‘I’m sick of you lot harassing me’ but agreed to do the test.

“Inside the house the defendant continued to shout at Mr Dean and accuse him of being a burglar and said he would ring the police.

“The defendant made a phone call to the police alleging Mr Dean was a burglar.

“The defendant then stood over Mr Dean, who was sitting on a chair.

“The defendant drew his hand into a fist and Mr Dean was fearful he was going to be hit.

“Mr Dean said he wanted to leave and stood up, but the defendant blocked his path.

“The defendant eventually let Mr Dean out but continued to shout at him.

“When police arrived they found Mr Dean was a drug testing person who was there lawfully.”

Mr Green said CCTV footage taken from a neighbour’s house showed Mr Dean was not attempting to burgle the house and he was not arrested by police.

When Barlow was questioned by police he maintained he thought Mr Dean was a burglar who hadn’t identified himself to his satisfaction.

The court heard following the incident Barlow had been banned for four years from playing sport or coaching by UKAD for interfering with a drugs test.

Guy Gozen QC, for Barlow, said: “He is not the most mature of individuals.

“When his partner told him that she thought someone was trying to break in he didn’t grasp the reality of the situation.

“He was unhappy by the way Mr Dean had conducted himself from what he had heard from his partner.”

Mr Gozen added the ban handed down by UKAD meant Barlow’s career was “at an end”.

Sentencing Barlow, Judge Jonathan Rose said: “Perhaps at other time than of this Olympic year have the public been aware of the United Kingdom Anti-Doping agency and the need that athletes in all sports are clean and are performing because of their high levels of skill and not because they are using drugs.

“They may not be popular with athletes but that is the small price that sportsmen should has you have to go through.

“All athletes no they have to go through testing at times that might not suit them.

“When the representative of the doping agency was at your home, it is my view that their mere presence lead to your annoyance and for you to act this way.

“Your behaviour was wholly unacceptable, and irrespective of your belief of there was a burglar entering the house, Mr Dean was there to do the job he was employed to do and he was doing it as professionally as you would expect.

“I expect you, with hindsight, will agree how fearful Mr Dean was of you because of your size.

“I don’t believe Mr Dean did anything wrong, yet you came to a few feet of him and you drew your fist back as if you were going to punch him.

“So fearful was he that he asked to leave your help, but you barred his way even if you did let him go eventually.

“You have brought shame on yourself and indeed Leigh Rugby League Club.”

Barlow, who pleaded guilty to common assault, had initially been charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice and false imprisonment, but those charges were dropped after he entered a guilty plea on the day of his trial.

Barlow was given a two-year community order and told to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

He was also ordered to pay £300 in costs.

Speaking after the case UKAD’s Chief Executive, Nicole Sapstead, said: “The outcome of this case sends a clear message that we will not tolerate obstructive or threatening behaviour towards any of our personnel.

“Whilst incidents such as this are rare, the obstruction of the doping control process in any way is, and will be, taken very seriously. Our role is to deter and detect those who cheat the system and protect everyone’s right to clean and honest sport.

“We cannot do this on our own and we ask all athletes, support staff and even family members to work with us to support the testing process so we can continue to protect the very essence of sport - fair play.”