The Toyota Cheetahs’ Nico Lee has been banned for 13 weeks following his disciplinary hearing in Cardiff, Wales.
The disciplinary committee met to consider the citing against Lee (No 12) which occurred against Connacht Rugby on February 16.
The player was reported by the Citing Commissioner in charge for alleged infringement of Law 9.27 – A player must not do anything that is against the spirit of good sportsmanship.
Regarding the offence, the player accepted that he had cleared the contents of his nose onto the face of an opposing player, thereby committing an act of foul play.
The disciplinary committee comprising of Owain Rhys James (Chair), Richard Cole and Nigel Williams (all Wales) concluded that the player had committed an intentional act of foul play.
The panel found that: “The player’s actions are an act of foul play. They have no place in the game. This is not a case of over-exuberance, or an act which is within the rules of the game going awry. It follows that by its nature this act is one that is deserving of punishment. It is contrary to the spirit of sport.”
It was accepted that: “The effect on the victim player was understandably serious. There is no expectation, and there ought never be an expectation, that an opposing player would clear the contents of their nose onto an opponent.”
In upholding the citing complaint, the disciplinary committee deemed that the offence merited a red card with a top-end offence with an entry point of 26 weeks.
In reaching that conclusion the panel found that: “It is difficult to imagine how an act of foul play of this sort could be worse, save for repeated acts or where actual injury is caused.”
The panel did not find any aggravating factors and applied mitigation of 50 per cent in respect of the player’s admission of facts, and his clean disciplinary record.
The panel further found that the player’s approach to the hearing and his conduct throughout was mature, sensible and considered. They ruled there was demonstrable “regret and an element of embarrassment about the situation”.
The committee considered the rugby calendar for the rest of the season and for domestic fixtures in South Africa, and as a result, the player is banned for a period of 13 games and is free to play from midnight on July 21.
The player was reminded of his right to appeal.
Since the lengthy ban, the player has extended his apology for his unsportsman like behavior.
The team’s strategic communication manger, Ronel Pienaar, condemned the behaviour, saying it was seen and taken in a very serious note by the club.
In a statement, Pienaar said the club condemned the action, citing it was not part of the team culture and accept the punishment as such.
“Nico is a star player and according to information from the team, he deeply regrets his behavior and has apologised immediately after the match to the opponent.”
She noted that the team realises that he is remorseful of his actions and as a result, it accepts the apology.