15 Jan A level playing field: doping control in Australian sport
Recent doping investigations in Australian sport is an opportunity for athletes and exercise & sports science professions of all levels to make themselves familiar with the anti-doping code, and the dangers that come with violating the rules.
The last several years have seen a number of high-profile cases concerning alleged violations to the anti-doping code. While these cases have been high in complexity with a mixed public reaction, it presents an opportunity for sportspeople in Australia to learn from these examples and increase their awareness of the risks associated with pushing the line.
As exercise & sports science professionals, if you work with athletes who are subject to the WADA code, your knowledge and awareness of the code is crucial. The WADA code changed in 2015 to include support personnel. This means that exercise & sports science professionals are now eligible for suspension within the code.
Doping is the act of using prohibited substances to enhance sports performance.
The anti-doping code is set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). A list of prohibited substances is updated every January, and is a result of monitoring patterns of substance misuse in sports across the world. This code is enforced by national agencies – in our case, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA).
INSIDE THE MIND OF AN ATHLETE: WHAT LEADS ATHLETES TO CONSCIOUSLY PARTICIPATE IN DOPING?
Perceived pressures, such as belief other athletes are doping and getting an unfair advantage, pressure from peers or coaches, high expectations and lucrative financial rewards on offer are some reasons that some athletes may choose to begin doping. Returning from injury faster is another reason for those who may be out of competition and in rehabilitation.
WHAT ARE THE RULES?
A doping violation can result from one of the following actions:
- Presence of a prohibited substance in a sample
- Used or attempted use of a prohibited substance by an athlete
- Refusing a test without compelling justification
- Violation of availability requirements for testing out of competition (some athletes are selected to report their whereabouts and to be available at any time for testing)
- Tampering or attempted tampering of doping control processes
- Possession of prohibited substances and/or methods
- Trafficking or attempted trafficking of prohibited substances and/or methods
- Administration or attempted administration of prohibited substances and/or methods (coaches and officials)
- Complicity with any rule violation
- Association in a professional capacity with a suspended person (e.g. continuing to coach an athlete who has been suspended)
It is vitally important to remember that you are responsible for what it found or put in your body, and ignorance is no excuse. If you return a positive test, or are found to have been involved in practices which violate the code, you will be suspended regardless of whether or not you were aware of the violation.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I AM FOUND GUILTY?
If you test positive to a banned substance or are found guilty of a rule violation, you will be suspended at the discretion of your sporting body, and if a support person, by your regulating body also. If ASADA feels your penalty is not severe enough, it can appeal the decision and enforce a harsher penalty. Penalties can be up to several years in length. When you are suspended, you are unable to participate in any level of sport in the world for the period of your suspension. This includes any association with a sporting club.
THE DANGERS OF SUPPLEMENTS
A significant number of nutritional supplements (vitamins, sports nutrition products etc.) contain other than the substances described on the label, through contamination on the production line with other products which may have traces of banned substances. For this reason, ASADA cannot advise whether any supplements contains a prohibited substance.
ASADA recommends that athletes speak to health professionals (such as your local Accredited Sports Scientist or Accredited Sports Dietitian) about proper management of your diet , lifestyle and training, before considering supplements. In many cases, supplements are avoidable when diet, training and sleep is optimised.
Some supplement companies advertise that their products are safe, and even that they comply with ASADA regulations, however due to the risk of contamination, this can never be guaranteed and is therefore a false statement. The safest approach is to avoid supplements where possible.
HOW CAN I MAKE SURE I AM DOING THE RIGHT THING?
The ASADA website has a resource called “Check Your Substances.” This resource allows you to put in details including your sport and any substance you are enquiring about, and it will give you detailed information regarding its legality in your sport. All athletes are strongly encouraged to utilise this tool to ensure their safety. Alternatively, you can phone ASADA to check your substances.
ASADA also offer free online anti-doping training modules designed to help educate those involved in sport.
TAKE HOME MESSAGES
- Exercise & Sports Science professionals who are support personnel to athletes are also subject to the WADA Code
- Doping is the use of prohibited substances to enhance sports performance
- Staying clean is your responsibility. You are responsible for what is found or put in your body, regardless of how it got there. Ignorance is no excuse.
- Being found guilty of a doping offence can lead to being banned from all sport for several years
- ASADA cannot guarantee the safety of supplements, due to the risk of contamination during production
- Use the Check Your Substances tool to ensure the safety and legality of your substances