A key change providing for a health-based approach to anti-doping in global sport has been cautiously welcomed by the World Players Association with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) endorsing modified sanctions for substances of abuse violations in the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code which was approved on 7 November 2019 in Katowice. The union continues to call for genuine reform on other key matters.
“The change – long advocated for by player associations – will make a meaningful difference to the careers and wellbeing of many athletes,” World Players Executive Director Brendan Schwab said today. “WADA’s overdue acceptance that an athlete’s health must come first means they may now serve as little as a one-month sanction with rehabilitation instead of up to four years under the current regime.
“The punitive nature of the current Code means that WADA must now work with all stakeholders including player associations to ensure the change is immediately implemented so that players do not unnecessarily face career ending bans in 2020.”
The change follows the historic action players took to ensure the participation of Peruvian football captain Paolo Guerrero at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, who banned from the tournament after testing positive to trace amounts of a metabolite of cocaine in his tea. The Court of Arbitration for Sport said it had no choice but to impose a ban despite finding that such inadvertent use could not have had any performance enhancing effects.
Guerrero was only freed to play following the intervention of the Swiss courts and the backing of World Players affiliate FIFPro and his fellow professionals French captain Hugo LLoris, Australian captain Mile Jedinak and Danish captain Simon Kjaer.
The World Players Association, which represents 85,000 athletes through more than 100 player associations in over 65 countries, is extremely disappointed that its second proposed change to the WADA Code to address the many cases of manifest injustice was needlessly rejected. The change would have ensured that severe sanctions are not imposed on athletes where it is clear they did not enhance their sporting performance and had no intent to do so.
“World Players is committed to achieving an anti-doping system that is effective, proportionate and protects the fundamental rights of athletes,” Schwab added. “The global anti-doping effort cannot tolerate that collateral damage to athlete livelihoods is an acceptable part of this fight. The unnecessary and punitive sanctioning of athletes – at a time when WADA is struggling to deal with institutionalised doping – only serves to further undermine athlete confidence in the system. WADA needs to understand that the fight against doping can only be won if it enjoys the genuine trust and confidence of the athletes.”