Strict Liability

Not knowing about anti-doping rules is not an excuse for an athlete. The Strict Liability principle does not cater for the careless or ill-informed, it does not cater for the unwitting consumption of contaminated supplements or the use of a banned substance not intended to enhance performance. An Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV) can happen regardless of whether an athlete deliberately uses a prohibited substance or method, or unknowingly uses a product containing a prohibited substance. Many athletes have been banned after testing positive for prohibited substances because they seemingly did not know better than to use a medication without checking its ingredients, or to use a supplement without considering the risks.

Strict Liability means that athletes should be confident that nothing they ingest or use, including: food, drink, medication, supplements and herbal remedies; contains a prohibited substance. It’s no excuse to accidentally drink from the wrong bottle, or take the wrong cold remedy, or swallow the wrong pill. Adhering to Strict Liability can be challenging for an athlete. They must question the advice given to them by people in positions of authority or by those who seemingly offer an expert opinion. Athletes should ensure that all their support staff, family and friends – in other words anyone who may have an influence over them or be in a position to give them something to ingest or use – understand their anti-doping responsibilities.

All athlete support personnel should understand their potential influence on an athlete and encourage them to exhibit strong anti-doping principles. Being advised to take or use something will not be excuse for an athlete – athletes are solely responsible for what is found inside their system. Under the Code, if an athlete tests positive for a prohibited substance, they could receive a four-year ban. An athlete may be eligible for a reduced sanction if they can prove they bore ‘No Significant Fault or Negligence’. For an athlete to avoid a sanction altogether they must prove the doping was totally accidental and that they were very careful to avoid such a situation; that is, it was not the result of their fault or negligence. This occurs very rarely.