With just a week to go before anti-doping chiefs gather in Johannesburg to adopt a revised version of the World Anti-Doping Code, a UK body has slammed the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s approach to athletes’ use of recreational drugs.
The Professional Players Federation (PPF) has filed papers with a Swiss supervisory authority seeking an urgent review of a decision to omit a clause relating to substance abuse without intent to enhance sport performance from the latest version of the revised code.
Clause 10.4.3 of an earlier version of the draft code indicated that, in cases where no intent to enhance sport performance was established, a relatively light penalty – ranging, on first violation, from a reprimand to a one-year ban – would apply.
Offending athletes might, moreover, be offered rehabilitation in lieu of part of their ban.
The PPF, which aims to protect the interests of professional sports players in the UK, said the clause was supported by “the player associations and athletes committees.”
It said it was putting forward three main arguments, including that omission of the clause “does not comply with WADA’s requirements under its statutes to obtain the moral and political commitment of the athletes.”
In a press release, Simon Taylor, PPF general secretary, claimed that WADA’s treatment of recreational drugs was “still stuck in the 20th century.”
He went on: “It is depressing that a group who refuse to even recognize the term ‘recreational drugs’ is now seeking to undermine the good work that is being developed on mental wellbeing and rehabilitation for sportsmen and women with addiction problems.
“Recreational drug abuse has no place in professional sport, but it would be naïve in the extreme to think that it does not exist.
“Sport and WADA has a ‘duty of care’ to provide appropriate support and treatment rather than just ruin players’ lives and careers with draconian two year bans that prevent athletes even training.”
In a statement, WADA emphasized that the PPF complaint was not a court action, adding that a PPF claim that WADA “has not followed its governance rules in the process adopted to review the World Anti-Doping Code” was, in its view, “without merit and rather an attempt to force the PPF’s own views into the code.”
WADA was “providing the requisite response to this spurious suggestion.”
It was “content that the registrar will complete his review professionally and properly without affecting the code process in Johannesburg.”
The new code is due to come into effect in 2015.
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org. David Owen worked for 20 years for the Financial Times in the United States, Canada, France and the UK. He ended his FT career as sports editor after the 2006 World Cup and is now freelancing, including covering the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2010 World Cup and London 2012. To follow him on Twitter, click here. This column is published with permission from the editors of InsidetheGames.