Dubai: This is disturbing news.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which is responsible for upholding the integrity of sport, has opted to soften their stance on athletes testing positive for recreational drugs out of competition.
For the first time in six years, the Canada-based authority which was founded in 1999, will considerably reduce the punishment on rule-breakers from two years at the least to one to three months.
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Having previously taken a serious view to ‘substances abuse’ and the use of illegal drugs, albeit non-performance-enhancing, WADA has done a U-turn on its fundamental goals which are to promote, coordinate and monitor the fight against drugs in sports — be it recreational or performance enhancing.
I’m certainly no saint, but I’m curious to known just why the powers that be at WADA would chose to overturn a regulation that stood resolute to ensure that the very ethics on which sport operates are not compromised.
The policy change, which will be sweet music to a section of athletes, will be implemented on January 1, 2021, allowing WADA to have a stronger focus on catching athletes who use performance enhancing drugs.
I’m not willing to buy that.
Recreational drugs, like basic alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, are taken to provide pleasure but not to improve a person’s life. On the contrary, they can lead to addiction, social disturbance and even misconduct.
Let alone health issues.
In a statement WADA defended its new stance saying: “If the athlete can establish that any ingestion or use occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sport performance, then the period of ineligibility shall be three months.
“In addition, the period of ineligibility calculated ... may be reduced to one month if the athlete or other person satisfactorily completes a substance of abuse treatment programme approved by the Anti-Doping Organisation.”
Just last year, WADA had approved a revision of the World Anti-Doping Code after a protracted, two-year consultation process.
In addition, the Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV), will ensure whistle-blowers who share information on doping in sport are protected and that shielding an individual or reprisals will count as an offence.
On a more encouraging note, WADA has asserted that the use of multiple prohibited substances can lead to an additional sentence of two years and to a ban.
Altering or forging documents will warrant more condemnation.
Overall, the rule changes have left a bitter taste and made me more confused than convinced.
I still believe that drugs, performance enhancing or recreational, have no place in the world of sport and that it’s WADA’s duty to unconditionally uphold that objective.