Happy New WADA Code

Denis Menchov, race stealer

A new year and it’s straight into the heavy stuff with the revised WADA Code for 2015. It brings stronger anti-doping rules, like a four year ban, and is now in effect. Here’s a summary of the changes.

WADA is the World Anti-Doping Agency, the international body created to harmonise anti-doping rules across a range of sports in 1999. “The Code” is WADA’s terms for all the rules that relate to anti-doping in sport and WADA sets the rules which others, like cycling’s governing body the UCI, sign up to. The 2015 WADA Code replaces the 2009 Code. You can download the full Code from their website.

What’s New?
WADA have produced a 9 page summary and I started reading but it’s worth summarising itself to illustrate the more relevant parts for cycling:

  • A four year ban is the headline grabber. Previously the ban was two years and now it’s four. Simple? Not really because like many a headline, the full text has more detail. It’s only for what WADA calls “non-specified substances”, jargon for heavy-duty substances that are unlikely to be consumed accidentally (eg foolishly consuming an over-the-counter “cold remedy”). But someone caught using EPO or blood doping will now risk a full four year ban
  • Anyone providing “substantial assistance” will get more rewards and assurances. This means if someone cooperates with information that helps catch someone else, for example an athlete rumbles their team doctor, then they’ll get a reduced ban and the pledge that the ban length can’t be increased on appeal. In fact if the information is very useful the athlete can be offered the chance of no ban. In short it’s plea bargaining using small fish to catch the bigger ones
  • Greater flexibility for athletes caught out by a positive test where they can prove they were not at fault, for example if you were fed contaminated meat by a race organiser and you could be cleared or at least get a shorter reprimand
  • Previously riders risked suspension in the event of three no-shows during an 18 month period. This is now shortened to three no-shows in 12 months meaning a careless athlete who bungles their Whereabouts is less likely to get banned because their sloppiness means they have to slip up more frequently to warrant a ban
  • The “statute of limitations” is extended from eight years to ten meaning the period of time for which an athlete, coach or other signatory of the Code can be held accountable is extended
  • Coaches, doctors, soigneurs and others are now held liable under the WADA Code. All “Athlete Support Personnel” having to sign up to the Code.
  • Prohibited Association” is new and means a rider cannot work or even associate with someone who has been banned. Go motorpacing with Michele Ferrari or Lance Armstrong and you risk a ban although there are some hurdles to mean this won’t be automatic. The same rule also includes those who work as a front for a banned coach, for example if Michele Ferrari were to use his son Stefano to relay training advice this is explicitly banned
  • Readers might remember Alejandro Valverde having to train in black prior to his return to Movistar. There’s now a new rule that lets athletes near the end of their ban hook up with a team for training or to use facilities
  • Sometimes teams have been raided and the stock of substances seized has included doping products only for the claim to be made that the stash was for a sick soigneur or some other excuse. This ruse will be harder to use as Athlete Support Personnel are now under the rules too. The flipside is that a soigneur with a headache will have to think twice before taking a remedy, that support staff aren’t in competition or being tested but must avoid all banned substances
  • There’s a reinforced cooperation rule that requires national anti-doping agencies, sports governing bodies and others to cooperate. This would have been handy when USADA was trying to get the UCI to cooperate: now it’s compulsory to work together
  • The Code is more inclusive of human rights with wording to reflect basic ideas of justice. Fair? Yes but also very practical as the Code cannot be challenged so easily on fundamental principles of human rights
  • There’s new and improved wording with redrafted paragraphs on a range of topics, including the No Fault or Contaminated Products sections, something that might have helped people grasp Alberto Contador’s clenbuterol ban
  • If all parties agree a hearing can be heard at the Court of Abitration for Sport in the first instance rather than on appeal. The idea being is that a case can be expedited and a settled view reached rather than risk appeals and delays

Theory to Practice
That’s the theory in bullet points. As ever we’ll need to see the jurisprudence, the case law. How the CAS treats the new rules will be interesting, especially the “no fault” aspects and probing the limits of association.

Just the Code
Of course this is just the Code, a set of rules to which people playing sport and games sign up to. The existence of rules won’t stop some trying to break them. But the new rules are tougher, fairer and better worded.

  • Update: the UCI have new rules for 2015 to incorporate the revised WADA Code but also go further in the case of an “Anti-Doping Rule Violation” (ADRV) with fines and suspensions borrowed from the MPCC Cycling book. Here’s a lift from their press release:

Team Suspension: If two riders within a team have an ADRV, the team shall be suspended from participation in any international event for a period determined by the UCI Disciplinary Commission. The suspension will be between 15 days and 45 days. If there is a third ADRV, the team shall be suspended for between 15 days and 12 months.

Fine for UCI WorldTeams and Pro Continental Teams: In addition to the suspension above, UCI WorldTeams and Pro Continental Teams shall pay a fine if two of their riders have ADRVs within a twelve-month period. The fine will be 5% of the annual Team budget.

35 thoughts on “Happy New WADA Code”

  1. Thank you for setting out the new WADA code so clearly. A small step in the right direction, although more focus on lifetime bans would have been helpful.

    • Why would a lifetime ban be useful?
      Do you think someone who is busted for taking an amphetamine once should have the same punishment as someone who undergoes a full EPO/blood transfusion programme?

      • Anon. No full answer is required to your questions. Read what I said. I did not say a lifetime ban for every offence. A lifetime ban as part of the WADA code would however be a useful tool for removing some of the more unsavoury characters who still, despite being caught cheating, show not the slightest sign of regret or remorse. None of them were banned for amphetamine abuse !

  2. Thank you for the summary I would never have waded through 9 pages without falling asleep. Happy New Year Inrng excellent work as usual.

  3. The UCI should book-end with more focus on the team and its role in keeping athletes healthy [and clean]. In a case where, say five athletes on a team are caught doping it should not just be up to the individual athletes’ will to ‘rumble’ the management. Teams will keep saying they ‘knew nothing’ and that the rider is an idiot who doped to keep their place on the team, whilst they can threaten the home life of the rider way beyond the terms of any professional contract.
    Sure a rider could always make a stupid mistake and get a cold remedy on their own, but there would be no passing the blame if there was a UCI code to place the responsibility [and sanctions] for all medical treatments on to the team.

    • It’s a difficult balance because cycling is both a team sport and an individual one, you could have innocent riders paying the price for someone doing something very stupid. The trouble as ever is proving “the team” is linked to doping, by which we mean team management.

      Having watched the Ghislain Lambert film the other day there’s a scene where a rider is told he’s been hired to “prepare” the riders but if he’s caught then he’ll be out on his own and the team will play the “lone wolf” card. Art imitating life. As ever proving the managerial role is hard but if they can be caught, the new code is stricter on them.

      • Re teams – you really do need to read the UCI’s implementation of the Code, not just the Code (it is the UCI’s implementation that CAS will make its judgements on, not the WADA Code). Especially the bits allowing them to suspend teams and fine them.

          • They’ve added more than gold plate. The team sanctions are a major step forward. Even with the given loophole, Astana may really be drinking in the last chance saloon. The ability to put teams on the naughty step and hit them with hefty fines (not many teams would have a 5% contingency fund) is what fans have been calling for, the UCI have finally delivered.

          • Thanks Inner Ring.
            Yes, there are sanctions on teams which is much needed. Two positives mean the team is suspended for 15 – 90 days. Another positive and it’s up to 12 months. Some backdated results can be annulled.
            Cooperation and rumbling another can reduce the individual sanction but the costs and fines are still on the individual.
            Teams can be fined up to 5% of their budget as declared at time of licence being granted, as well as being suspended for up to 12 months. (- will dodgy teams under-report their budgets?)
            I’m still not sure this helps eliminate the scope for a rider to be doctored under duress within a team and would like to see automatic sanctions against DSs, team doctors and soigneurs in the event where there is no explicit evidence that the rider went outside the team structure to get the stuff. This probably follows from the code by implication but it would be good to see a section on team responsibilities based on team structures.

  4. Thanks for the summary.

    Just on the extension to a 10 year statute of limitations. Is this retrospective? In other words, could Vino be looked at in regards to his 2005 L-B-L win for example?

    I’m sure he’s been quoted, when asked about giving information to the truth and reconciliation process, that it falls outside the 8 year period and therefore there’s no point in him talking to them.

    • Great summary, INRNG. Thanks, as ever.

      One thing: the suspension period for failing the Whereabouts 3 strikes and you’re out, is now longer by a further 6 months, I believe.

    • Yep, it’s good that it’s being extended but it’s still laughably inadequate – it seems to take about a decade in a lot of cases for information, medical records, retired riders finally telling all, confessions from people caught in later cases etc to build up enough to prosecute someone. Look at the way Riis is only under investigation now for stuff that happened at his team during 2004-2006ish, how long it took to get Armstrong (although they were able to waive the SOL for that one), the stuff going on in Rabobank during 2007 only coming out now, Operation Puerto either started in 2004 (public knowledge) or 2006 (police raids) but the trial only happened last year.

      It’s 2014 and it’s still the case that almost all the doping ‘big fish’ have been caught by police in different countries, grand jury subpoenas, confessions etc, not testing. The only way for testing to be more than a fig leaf is:

      20 year statute of limitations.

      Get rid of national ADAs and transfer their powers to WADA.

      Make testing and test results public – the public should be allowed know who’s been tested when and for what. If say the Tour of California doesn’t bother to test for EPO it should be public knowledge. Also is a rider has multiple borderline EPO tests or a measured T:E ratio pegged at 4:1 at convenient times or a string of TUEs it should be public knowledge which would hopefully stop cyclists skirting the rules because it would be obvious to people what’s going on. I don’t buy the privacy argument at all.

      Have a regular schedule for retesting samples – if a new test comes along – at least top 10 in previous GTs during period between drug invention and new test should be retested. Number and identities of athletes tested along with what they were retested for should be public as above. Retesting should be one of the main antidoping weapons – there should always be the fear that you’ll be caught eventually, but how many people have been caught on retests? Thomas Dekker?

      Basically the principles are:
      1) show to the public that the antidoping community is doing its job
      2) stop light dopers who dope below the level required for sanction by making their data public, even if they’re not sanctioned it will be a lot harder for team owners to sign them and feign ignorance
      3) long SOL and lots of retests so dopers will always have the fear of being caught

      • Thanks. That makes a nice change. Usually, in law, when a statute of limitations expires, any extension to the time can’t be used retrospectively.

        So if the UCI had found proof of wrongdoing in a 2005 race, last year, they couldn’t have acted due to the eight year time frame. Now it is ten, anything that occurred in 2005 is punishable. Just wanted to confirm.

    • The UCI takes over the hearing and adjudication of doping cases, from the national feds, if thats what you mean? Riders will have the option of having the case heard by CAS instead of the new UCI tribunal, but the important thing is that whether its CAS or the UCI tribunal, it will be out of the hands of the national bodies who have a vested interest in not finding their national star riders, guilty

  5. I was wondering if there would be a post on the (confusing) case of Ezekiel Mosquera. His doping overturn seems strange, and the timing of the decision is even stranger.

  6. Clearly a step in the right direction, and clearly better to slowly relinquish the power of the national federations. Now all that’s needed is Kreuziger to get his just desserts and whatever follows with other big name riders and staff from that.

  7. I find it hard to believe that the UCI or a WADA affiliate are going to test team personnel in any meaningful numbers. Since most in-competition tests are paid for by the race organizer, they typically will only go as far as minimally required; I don’t see them springing to randomly test soigneurs, mechanics, and sports directors.

    Furthermore, I doubt there is a procedure for notifying them and doing so. While a DS has to register for a race (and present their license) like the riders, typically soigneurs and mechanics don’t (even though they are licensed), so there typically isn’t an official record of the officials to work off of.

    So they are only going to find banned remedies in raids. How often do these actually happen?

    Window Dressing… And if you really think about it, it is a cure for which there isn’t really a disease. You are only going to catch a rider taking one of these substances, if they get tested. If a rider tests positive for a banned item, punish them. But they are going to punish team staff for possessing items legally available over the counter from a pharmacy because a rider might take them… And they are going to prevent overworked/underpaid team staff from treating their own ailments via otherwise legal and commonly available methods for people who are not directly competing in the event…

    • What was the old story about the rider testing positive for amphetamines because he used the urine of one of the staff members to avoid a positive? They need to close up the old “it’s for the mechanics” etc. excuse when banned substances or evidence of their use (packaging, etc.) are found. Sadly, the cheaters will exploit the smallest loophole in the rules if they think they can get away with it. All this draconian stuff could be avoided if these pricks would just follow the rules they agreed to when taking out a license!! Is that really so much to ask? Nobody puts a gun to their head and says “You must become a successful pro racing cyclist or we’ll kill you!” after all.

        • That’s what I thought, but couldn’t remember for sure enough to put a name on it. I have a tough time imagining the scenario where the rider in question voids his own (contaminated) urine and then “installs” (via a catheter? OWWW!) the “clean” urine into his bladder so it can be voided into the cup for the testers at the proper time. Plenty of opportunity here to really think about what you’re doing and how it doesn’t follow the letter or spirit of the rules you agreed upon when taking out your license to participate in the SPORT.

  8. The Athlete Support Personnel part is a minefield. So if I am employed by a team as, say, a psychologist to help the riders, I can’t take certain medicines that may be available over the counter in many countries.

    What if I’m not employed by the team as >Athlete< support, just as media liaison (for example)?

    What if I'm not technically employed at all, say one of the riders is my brother and I travel with the team to support him as I always have since he was a junior? Plenty of examples of that in many sports. Even if I or my brother pay my own plane fares, who's to say that he isn't paid extra to cover those?

    • You can take the medicines if you can justify their use. So longer can a team just claim products are for staff, now they need to back it up.

      Media liason is a direct team colleague so that probably falls under the link. As for your brother it depends whether you work together in coaching etc. We’ll see what happens with case law but the short version is that no team should have banned substances around without clear justification.

  9. As team owner is Oleg Tinkov officially support staff? It’s been suggested in my timeline that he may be partial to a bit of the ol’ Colombian marching powder.

    • I went looking in the full document out of curiosity for this. Talk about a rabbit hole!

      I found this definition (they should’ve provided a glossary or an appendix to the summary)
      Athlete Support Personnel: Any coach, trainer, manager, agent, team staff, official, medical, paramedical personnel, parent or any other Person working with, treating or assisting an athlete participating in or preparing for sports Competition

      That looks like a yes, team managers count. I noticed however while looking for this definition, a footnote on page 114 that suggests it’s possible to determined that support possesses prohibited substances, but without violating anti-doping rules, and in these cases they ‘should’ be disciplined anyway.

      I’m far too tired and not enough of a lawyer to figure out how this works but I’m guessing if that Twitter rumour was true (I don’t like casting aspersions [though it would explain Oleg’s social media policy]) if a team manager possessed such a prohibited substance it might not count as a doping violation but he could well be sanctioned/reprimanded in some other way (or charged for a criminal offense, as unlikely as that would probably be).
      I don’t know if it’s possible to twist this to get away with full-on doping, but I imagine it’d be difficult to prove that, by comparison, a coach has a stockpile of steroids for ‘recreational use’?

      Related: the document also specifically mentions cannabinoids on page 138 re: athletes being able to establish no fault or negligence by proving they were not being used to enhance sports performance.

      NB: Don’t repeat my mistake: don’t start reading about drugs in sport at midnight no matter how interesting it seems (and stay in school, kids!)

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