Can athlete support personnel be held liable for a doping offence under the WADA Code?

Use of illegal performance enhancing substances in Sport

The use of illegal performance enhancing substances in sport is a huge issue across a variety of sports. The need to eradicate the use of performance enhancing substances is a key requirement to protect the integrity of sport and to protect the element of fair play needed in order to keep the playing field level – the essence of sporting competition.

Accordingly many sports such as athletics and cycling face a constant battle in order to try and eradicate the use of performance enhancing substances in their sports.

Athlete support personnel

What is meant by athlete support personnel?

Athlete support personnel is a broad term which encompasses all those individuals that provide support to an athlete during their participation in the sport. This could include a coach who deals specifically with an individual athlete or coaches and team staff who deal specifically with an individual sporting team.

The role athlete support personnel may have in doping violations

When considering the use of performance enhancing substances in sport the first image to jump out is that of the athlete administering this to themselves in secret without the knowledge of any other individual. This however, is not always the case. Athlete support personnel may encourage their athletes to use performance enhancers if they believe they can get away with it. There may also be the situation where a member of the athlete support team becomes aware of new techniques unknown to the regulatory bodies which they may encourage their athletes to participate in.

The WADA Code

The World Anti-Doping Code (WADA) Code has been established to provide a basis for World and National Governing Bodies to adopt rules and regulations concerning the use of illegal performance enhancing substances in their sport.

Accordingly there are various offences under the code such as the presence of a prohibited substance in an athlete’s sample or the use of a prohibited substance or method. These offences are however, aimed directly at the athlete as it is that individual who has the competitive advantage over the others in the competition. Under the WADA Code, however, there are situations whereby a member of the athlete support personnel can be liable for certain offences.

Applicable offences to athlete support personnel under the WADA Code

The following offences under the WADA Code are clearly applicable to the athlete support personnel:

  • Possession of a prohibited substance or method during a competition

  • Possession of a prohibited substance or method during training athlete training out of competition

  • Trafficking or attempting trafficking in any prohibited substance or prohibited method

  • Administration or attempted administration to an athlete of any prohibited substance or method during competition

  • Administration or attempted to an athlete of any prohibited substance or method out of competition during a training session

  • Assisting, aiding, abetting, covering up or any other type of complicity involving an anti-doping rule violation or any attempted anti-doping rule violation

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For more information on:

  • Strict Liability
  • What is the case if a member of the athlete support personnel cannot be charged under one of the above offences?
  • Is this position always the case?
  • What was the basis for this ban?
  • What did the Court of Arbitration for Sport decide?
  • Does this eliminate the prospect of an athlete support personnel being negligent in his duties?
  • Can an athlete have a claim against their athlete support personnel?