New anti-doping rules to protect whistle-blowers
Whistle-blowers will be offered enhanced protection under anti-doping rules to be introduced in January, which will also include reduced sentences for the use of some recreational drugs.
The updated rules, which were published by UK Anti-Doping yesterday, follow changes in the World Anti-Doping Code and apply to everyone in sport, from athletes and coaches to support staff.
The treatment of whistle-blowers, whose intelligence is regarded as critical in the fight against doping, will mean that a separate offence will apply to those who discourage the reporting of information or retaliate against an individual for doing so.
There will also be the potential for shorter bans for some substances, largely recreational drugs, when their use is out-of-competition and unrelated to performance. Athletes will also be incentivised to follow treatment programmes. The list of substances to which this will apply has not yet been published, but is expected to include cannabis and cocaine.
If, for example, an athlete is tested in competition and can produce evidence that the substance was used out of competition then the sentence would be reduced from two years to three months. It could go down further to just one month if the athlete completes a rehabilitation programme.
The rationale is that anti-doping should be about catching cheats and that out-of-competition recreational drug use should be a public health matter rather than a sports disciplinary issue.
Engaging in fraudulent conduct, such as submitting falsified documents following a violation, will also be treated as a separate offence and mean that a further consecutive ban can be applied. Bans will also be increased under the new rules by an additional two years where “aggravating circumstances” occur, such as the use of multiple prohibited substances.
The aim of the changes is to bring more flexibility to the system but recognise the importance of whistle-blowers. Many of the biggest doping revelations of recent years, notably Lance Armstrong in cycling and the scandal which had led to Russia’s Olympic and Paralympic suspension, have largely come to light as a result of whistle-blowers rather than testing.
“We have developed the new rules to ensure that we are able to meet the latest challenges threatening clean sport, and that athletes and the public can have confidence in clean competition,” said Nicole Sapstead, Ukad chief executive.