Cheetahs centre Lee admits to ‘act of stupidity’, banned for 13 weeks

Cheetahs centre Lee admits to ‘act of stupidity’, banned for 13 weeks

The Cheetahs centre Nico Lee has been banned for 13 weeks for acting against the spirit of good sportsmanship in his teams losing match against Connacht in Galway this past weekend.

Lee faced a disciplinary hearing in Cardiff on Wednesday.

The Cheetahs centre was reported by the citing commissioner in charge for an alleged infringement of Law 9.27 – A Player must not do anything that is against the spirit of good sportsmanship.

Lee 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 Lee 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 to 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% in respect of the Lee’s admission of facts, and his clean disciplinary record. The panel found that his approach to the hearing and his conduct throughout was mature, sensible and considered. They found that there was demonstrable “regret and an element of embarrassment about the situation.”

The committee took into account the rugby calendar for the rest of the season and for domestic fixtures in South Africa, and as a result, Lee is banned for a period of 13 games and is free to play from midnight on Sunday, July 21.

Lee was reminded of his right to appeal.

♦  Lee in a short video clip on Twitter, apologised to his team mates and Cheetahs Rugby and to supporters, as he had done after the match to his opponent, Connacht’s Australian flank Colby Fainga’a for his act.

He also apologised to the Connacht team and Pro14, admitting that it was an act of stupidity and said “that this is not the type of person or player that I am”

♦  Lee will be replaced by Benhard Janse van Rensburg who did not travel with the Cheetahs because of injury.