Bolt stripped of Olympic Gold
27 January 2017 by Jason Torrance
Usain Bolt is arguably the most recognisable and well-known athlete in the world and will go down as the greatest sprinter in history when he retires. He had won the “triple triple” – 3 gold medals in the 3 main sprint events (the men’s 100 metres, 200 metres and 4×100 metres) for 3 consecutive Olympic Games. He has been the face of athletics for almost a decade and when former drug cheat Justin Gatlin returned from the second doping ban of his career and emerged as one of the favourites for the men’s sprint competitions at the last Olympics, the showdown between Bolt and Gatlin was portrayed as a showdown between “good versus evil”.
However, after confirmation that Nesta Carter, one of Bolt’s team mates, tested positive for methylhexaneamine at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Bolt has now had one of those gold medals stripped from him. No blame is attributed to Bolt or his other team mates; they did nothing wrong. Bolt ran as part of a 4 man Jamaican team that included Asafa Powell, Michael Frater and Nesta Carter. They won in a then world record time.
The World Anti-Doping Code (the Code) states that if two or more members of a team in a Team Sport test positive, then the entire team will be disqualified. Team Sport is defined as a sport in which substitutions are allowed during competition. It goes on to say that the ruling body for an Event may elect to establish rules for that Event which imposes consequences for Team Sports that are stricter than the above. The comment to this then states “[F]or example, the International Olympic Committee could establish rules which would require Disqualification of a team from the Olympic Games based on a lesser number of anti-doping rule violations during the period of the Games”.
This is what the IOC did. Article 10.1 of the anti-doping rules applicable to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 states “[I]n sports which are not Team Sports but where awards are given to teams, if one or more team member have committed an anti-doping rule violation during the Period of the Olympic Games, the team may be subject to Disqualification, and/or other disciplinary action as provided in the applicable rules of the relevant International Federation”.
Bolt and his team mates must now return their gold medals, Jamaica will be stripped of the title and the medals re-allocated accordingly.
The substance Carter tested positive for is a specified substance often found in supplements. A number of years ago there were numerous findings for MHA throughout the world, with the issues of athletes not checking the ingredients of their supplements properly and the lack of regulation of supplements being brought to the forefront. MHA is known by a number of synonyms, meaning that even if an athlete knew to look for MHA on the ingredients listed on a supplement, they may not know to look for synonyms such as geranium stem or 1-3dimethylamylamine. It has caught many athletes out at all levels of sport, including here in the UK.
Under the new Code, it is likely that an athlete will receive a 2 year ban for testing positive for such a substance unless they can prove that the supplement they used was contaminated or that they were at no significant fault or negligence. Case law shows this is not easy.
If you are an athlete and find yourself in a similar situation, Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP can help in this 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 Jason Torrance on 01245 584524.