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.
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.