Doping in Team Sports

If a member of a team is found guilty of a doping offence does this affect the whole team or just the individual player?

There have been many instances within sport where individual athletes have been found guilty of a doping offence and so have received an automatic ban in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code.

If an individual athlete is found to be in breach of this code then they face a strict liability punishment of a two year ban for their first offence and life for the second offence.

The fact that the offence of doping is strictly liable means that it will apply regardless of whether that person was aware of taking that banned substance or whether they intended to enhance their performance by taking the substance.

Two of the most renowned sports for problems with doping are track events in the world of athletics and cycling. Both of these sports are perceived as individual sports but it is often the case that the individuals enter the events as part of a team. It has been in this area that we have seen examples of teams being disqualified for the failure of a doping test by one of the members of that team.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code

Article 11 of the WADA Code states the following:

  • Where more than one team member in a team sport has been notified of a possible anti-doping rule violation the team shall be subject to target testing for the event. If more than one team member in a team sport is found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation during the event, the team may be subject to disqualification or other disciplinary action.

Article 11 further qualifies this above provision by stating the following:

  • In sports which are not team sports but where awards are given to teams, disqualification or other disciplinary action against the team when one or more team members have committed an anti-doping rule violation shall be provided for in the rules of the requisite International Federation.

Thus following article 11 we can see that in sports such as athletics or cycling whereby the athletes compete as individuals but in some cases as part of a team it is up to the International Federation of that particular sport to make the final decision on punishment.

Example of when Article 11 came into play

The second part of Article 11 was cited as the reason that the British men’s 4 x 100m relay squad was stripped of their gold medals following the positive doping test submitted by team member Dwain Chambers.

Chambers was subsequently banned but the only punishment his teammates suffered was in being disqualified from the event and therefore losing their medals.

What is the case in traditional team sports such as football?

More often than not in sports such as football as it is a team game involving a large number of players as squad members throughout a prolonged season it is not necessary to disqualify or provide disciplinary action against the team involved.

Often being without the services of that player for a prolonged period of time will be deemed enough punishment. Similarly if more than one player is found guilty of doping the team may face such disciplinary action in the form of a fine but it is unlikely they will face disqualification from a particular competition.

There has, however, been one particular case which went as far as the Court of Arbitration for Sport where it was argued that a team should be disqualified from a competition due to the failure of a drugs test by one team member.

Wales vs. UEFA

In the case of Wales vs. UEFA the Welsh football team lost out to Russia in a play off for the European Championships of 2004. Subsequently one of the Russian team failed a doping test which he took after the first leg of the encounter of which he was an unused substitute. He then played 60 minutes of the second leg encounter before the news of his failed test was apparent.

Wales argued that not only should the player be banned but Russia should also be disqualified from the tournament meaning that Wales would take their place.

UEFA dismissed the claim saying that Wales were unable to prove that the player was under the influence of the performance enhancer during the second match and that the doping controls contained within the UEFA code of conduct were directed at the player and not the team.

The case was taken before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) despite UEFA’s claim that the CAS has no jurisdiction to adjudicate on such matters.

What was the decision of the CAS?

The CAS also held that Russia should be able to compete in the tournament as the Football Association of Wales were unable to prove that the Russian Federation were actually implicated in their player taking the drug.

So what can we draw from this case?

The fact that the Football Association of Wales were able to get this case before the CAS showing that the CAS does have in fact have authority to adjudicate over the doping laws laid down by sporting International Governing Bodies means that the governing bodies will have to align their rules to those of international codes such as the WADA Code or face continual appeal to the CAS.

Furthermore this means that we are a step closer to achieving consistency across the board in relation to doping controls within sport.