Anti-Doping in the UK
24 November 2015 by Jason Torrance
In the wake of the doping scandal to have gripped athletics following the damning report into Russian athletics from the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Association of Athletics Federations’ subsequent decision to suspend Russia from athletics competitions, anti-doping is currently one of, if not the, most high-profile sporting topics. This, of course, follows on from another recent athletics anti-doping story at the World Championships in which Justin Gatlin, the American sprinter who has twice been found guilty of doping, was considered by many as the favourite for 100 and 200 metre gold. The media’s response to Usain Bolt doing what Usain Bolt does best was evident and largely reflected the view of the spectators of the sport and those actively involved in the sport. Neither does it seem long ago that cycling was the sport in the headlines for all the wrong reasons following the prosecution of arguably the most famous cyclist in history, Lance Armstrong, for what was described as the most sophisticated doping regime sport has ever seen.
This news comes from two of the biggest, most high profile sports in the world and involves some of the biggest names in their respective sports. Whilst anti-doping authorities do all they can, the opinion of many is that sophisticated dopers with vast resources will remain one step ahead of those who are trying to keep sport clean. Having worked in the legal team at UK Anti-Doping for over five years, I have first hand experience of this from the inside. The fight against doping in sport is never-ending, and whilst there are such huge rewards available for those who compete, the enticement to win at all costs remains great.
The UK is fortunate to have an anti-doping organisation run by people who are passionate about protecting sport and who are experts in their field. The testing programme is well thought out to ensure resources are used efficiently guided by the information received being researched and enhanced, the education programme is wide-reaching to ensure as many athletes as possible are well informed, and the legal team does all it can to ensure that athletes who cheat are punished.
Despite this, doping remains active in sports in the UK. Some is deliberately, some is inadvertent. If an athlete is found to have breached the anti-doping rules, the likelihood is they will be banned from sport. The new World Anti-Doping Code has increased the standard sanction for most violations from 2 years to 4 years. This is a significant period out of sport for a professional athlete given how short most sporting careers are. Anti-doping is a significant part of an athlete’s professional responsibilities. And yet many athletes do not receive the support they feel they need for such an important aspect of their career. This is especially true when, it could be argued, it is already too late – when they are notified that they are being charged with an anti-doping rule violation.
It is at this early stage that it is crucial to obtain good legal advice and be represented throughout the results management process as there are a number of ways in which the standard 4 year sanction can be reduced. This is where Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP can help. In what is a very niche area of the law, we can advise athletes and athlete support personnel throughout the course of anti-doping proceedings and provide expert representation. We are also able to assist National Governing Bodies meet their regulatory duties and ensure that their anti-doping rules, practices and procedures are in line with UK Anti-Doping’s. For expert advice on anti-doping, please contact us.
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