The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) have released updates for 2021 to the anti-doping programs.
The new updates are:
- In-Competition Period: Under the 2021 rules, in-competition is defined as the period beginning at 11:59 p.m. on the day before a competition in which the athlete is scheduled to participate, through the end of the competition and the sample collection process related to the competition.
- New Violations: Whistleblowing, or reporting information to authorities, is now protected under the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code. More specifically, it is a violation to threaten, intimidate, or discourage a person from reporting information to authorities about doping violations or non-compliance with the Code or to retaliate against another person for doing so. Athletes, athlete support personnel, and all those subject to anti-doping rules which attempt to obstruct whistleblowing activities may receive a sanction ranging from two years to lifetime ineligibility, depending on the seriousness of the violation.
- Substances of Abuse: WADA has identified a category of substances called Substances of Abuse, which are substances that are both prohibited in-competition and frequently abused in society outside of sport. The 2021 Prohibited List identifies the following as Substances of Abuse: cocaine, diamorphine (heroin), methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA/ecstasy), and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive chemical in natural cannabis products). Positive tests involving Substances of Abuse will be subject to specific rules under the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code. For example, if an athlete can establish that the use of a substance of abuse was out-of-competition and unrelated to sports performance, then the period of ineligibility is an even three months with no need to further analyze the degree of fault. The sanction can be further reduced to one month if the athlete successfully completes a substance abuse program that is approved by USADA.
I commend the programs for acknowledging that athletes may find themselves addicted to substances outside of sport. With all the things that are our post COVID world, the growing acceptance of “soft” drugs, and our society’s use of “party” drugs and alcohol, we have a mixed bag of acceptable behavior.
Just a few weeks ago, I read an article written by a mother asking why it was socially okay for her fellow moms to drink half a bottle of wine when the kids were asleep, yet it wasn’t OK for her to smoke marijuana. In the end, both mothers are self-medicating from their day, and as a society, we do, in fact, have a mixed response to who may do this and who may not. Without arguing the nuances of specific substances or their legality, I think we can generally all accept that many in our society are struggling to cope and are left turning to self-medication. As a coach and athlete, I believe that a new willingness to give leniency to those willing to seek help with addiction to substances that are likely the subject of abuse and not performance aiding is a great move on behalf of WADA, even if it comes after a positive test.
When I was a commander in the Army, I leaned hard on the Army Substance Abuse Programs (ASAP) and mental health programs vowing to all under my command that I would always advocate for them to complete the programs before their discharge. I felt that many of the Paratroopers were likely driven to their addiction due to the military’s hardships. While it was unsafe to have them in combat, I believed the organization and leadership owed them the opportunity to heal before departing our ranks. My command policy was simple, anyone who self-reported would receive full clemency if they completed the ASAP requirements, and anyone who did not self-report and subsequently had a positive drug test, DUI, or alcohol-related incident would be punished to the full extent which was often discharged from service with the option to complete ASAP before departure. No matter how the Paratrooper found their way to ASAP, the support of them through the program was also a top priority for the command team; both my first sergeant and I made it a point to attend in person any part of the program that we could to support the individuals.
As a unit, I found this approach to work incredibly well. During my two years of command, the units had zero DUIs and only one positive drug test. This is not to say we didn’t have Paratroopers who battled addiction; of course, we did. However, those Paratroopers knew they had the full support stigma-free to seek the help they needed and that their senior leaders would make their efforts to heal a top priority.
Athletes often hear me say “it depends” and “it is relative.” I think those are my most common answers when asked a question. I share the story above about the Paratroopers I served with, fully knowing that some may think, “well, they were dealing with life and death.” What I remind everyone of is how life is relative to each person’s unique situation. For athletes, especially those with their identity or financial success tied to their performance, sport can seem to be life or death. The struggle to maintain perfection and always push the limits can become debilitating and result in depression, addiction, and other issues. I encourage all of our athletes to show compassion to those who ask for help and be there for those who need it.
USADA and WADA are reminding us as athletes that our leaders in sport care about us. Know that your health and wellbeing is something that your fellow teammates at Triple Victor, the coaches, doctors, support staff, and all the way up the “chain” to the International Olympic Committee are invested in.
For support you can always reach out to anyone on our board or the following:
- For questions about testing, contact USADA’s Athlete Services Team at athleteexpress@USADA.org or call (719) 785-2000.
- For questions about specific products, substances, and methods, contact USADA’s Drug Reference Line at drugreference@USADA.org or call (719) 785-2000, option 2.
- For assistance with addiction or mental health, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-622-HELP (4357). The SAMHSA National Helpline is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service in English and Spanish for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. The service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.