By Emily Ledger
Athletes who fail drug tests for cannabis and cocaine use are set to face shorter bans, due to changes in the UK Anti-Doping organisation’s new rules. The move will target drugs that are not intended to enhance the athlete’s performance.
UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) announced that the change would be part of a wider reform that put an “emphasis on athlete welfare”. The organisation’s decision is supposed to reflect the indication of wider societal issues concerning drug use. It is assumed that this refers to the high levels of both cannabis and cocaine use in today’s society.
The new rules will come into force from January 2021 in line with the new World Anti-Doping Agency Code. In addition to shorter bans for out-of-competition cannabis and cocaine use, athletes who fail a drug test may be offered further leniency. However, reduced bans will only be given for out-of-competition drug tests and where their use is “unrelated to sports performance”.
Speaking on the announcement, UKAD Chief Executive Nicole Sapstead said:
““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.”
According to the BBC, this could include further ban term reductions for athletes who complete an approved treatment programme. Prompt admission of an anti-doping violation could also earn a more lenient ban.
Other changes to the UK Anti-Doping Code
Despite reduced bans in some circumstances, in others, longer bans may be given to athletes in violation of rules. This includes bans being increased for an additional two years where “aggravating circumstances” occur. According to UKAD, this could refer to the use of multiple prohibited substances.
In addition, a new violation has been added to the code, designed to further protect whistleblowing in sport. This applies to those who share information with regulating bodies or the press regarding doping in sport. This new rule will make it an offence to “discourage the reporting of information or to retaliate against an individual for doing so.”