Australian athletes will now be banned from using Stilnox, a prescription medication used for the treatment of insomnia, from the date they are selected in an attempt to avoid the scandals which rocked their swimming team at London 2012.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) Executive has moved to clarify the situation regarding the use of “hypnotic substances” ahead of next year’s Olympic Games in Rio.
They were subjected to fierce criticism for not giving athletes enough time to stop using the medications, which swimmer Grant Hackett claims he became addicted to, after they only introduced the ban three weeks before the start of the Games in London.
“First and foremost we banned Stilnox before the London Games because of serious concerns for the welfare of the athletes,” AOC chief executive Fiona de Jong said.
“We felt then we had an obligation to protect our athletes from serious harm and that remains our priority today.
“By introducing the ban from the date of selection we are giving any athlete taking hypnotic medications time to wean themselves off the drug long before they enter the Village in Rio.
“This will vary depending on the sport, but there should be no weaning off period immediately prior to the Games.
“Instead we are recommending athletes adopt healthy sleep strategies, relaxation and meditation techniques and other drug-free approaches in the lead up to Rio.
“The three-week window prior to London caused issues within the team but this time there is no excuse.”
After the conclusion of London 2012, it was found that members of Australia’s 4×100 metres relay swimming squad had used the drug at a pre-Games training camp in Manchester.
James Magnussen, Eamon Sullivan, James Roberts, Matt Targett, Tommaso D’Orsogna and Cameron McEvoy admitted to taking Stilnox at the camp and the team were also forced to apologise for their conduct at their hotel.
The team could have lost their funding but were reprieved after an subsequent investigation into the incident revealed the swimmers were unsure of when the ban started.
Australian athletes will also be banned from drinking alcohol in the Olympic Village at Rio 2016 following the controversies the team experienced at London 2012, with a report into their underwhelming performance stating that “culturally toxic incidents such as getting drunk, misuse of prescription drugs, breeching curfews, deceit and bullying” were allowed to go unpunished within the team.
Any athletes who breach the ban could be thrown off the Australian team for Rio 2016 and may be threatened with a life suspension from representing their country in future.
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Inside the Games.