International Court backs Drug Free Sport NZ
Drug Free Sport NZ is pleased the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has backed the steps it took in relation to an anti-doping rule violation by triathlete Kris Gemmell.
CAS today released a judgement in which it banned Mr Gemmell from participating in sport for 15 months for failing to comply with the athlete whereabouts programme.
The whereabouts programme is used by anti-doping organisations worldwide and requires athletes to regularly log details of their whereabouts so that they can be located at any time for “surprise” drug testing.
Drug Free Sport NZ took the case to CAS after it was dismissed by the New Zealand Sports Tribunal in February this year.
Drug Free Sport NZ chief executive Graeme Steel says the CAS decision is important because it clarifies the rules around the whereabouts programme.
“The Court notes that the whereabouts programme is a ‘powerful and effective means of deterring and detecting doping in sport’. The ruling confirms that the surprise nature of drug testing that the whereabouts programme allows is important and that Drug Free Sport NZ is
right not to give athletes advance notice of testing by telephoning them.”
Top level athletes involved in the whereabouts programme need to specify a one-hour timeslot each day in which they will be available for drug testing.
Under the current rules, if they fail to correctly record their whereabouts or miss a test three times in the space of 18-months, it is considered an anti-doping rule violation.
Drug Free Sport NZ argued that Mr Gemmell had missed two tests and filed incorrect information on another occasion within an 18-month period.
The New Zealand Sports Tribunal dismissed the case saying the first missed test should not be counted because “reasonable” steps were not taken to locate Mr Gemmell, namely telephoning him to let him know that an official was at his nominated location to test him.
Mr Steel says CAS did not agree with the Tribunal and he’s pleased to have the procedures outlined for both anti-doping organisations and athletes.
“A telephone call to notify an athlete that a doping control official is present gives those who dope the time and opportunity to alter the integrity of their sample if they so choose. This goes against the very purpose of surprise testing.”
CAS also noted that athletes have a “legal obligation” to be available and present at the time they’ve specified for testing.
Mr Steel says this is a timely reminder for New Zealand athletes who are involved in the whereabouts programme.
“Anti-doping organisations obviously have an obligation to follow the correct procedures and we’re pleased this ruling from CAS has clarified those, but it’s also highlighted the obligations of athletes to not only file correct whereabouts information, but to make sure they’re available for testing when they say they will be.”
CAS notes that this case is not one of “an athlete deliberately trying to avoid or circumvent the testing regime” and imposed a lesser ban than the maximum allowable of two years due to mitigating circumstances.
Mr Gemmell’s 15-month period of ineligibility is backdated from February 12, 2014.
About the Athlete Whereabouts Programme:
- Drug Free Sport NZ, in keeping with international requirements, has a Registered Testing Pool (RTP) of elite athletes who must provide whereabouts information and be available for a drug test at any time. Drug Free Sport’s RTP currently consists of approximately 40 athletes.
- Athletes who are in the RTP must log whereabouts information with Drug Free Sport NZ quarterly.
- The information athletes must make available includes details of where they are living and training, a competition schedule, a training schedule and any travel plans.
- RTP athletes must also specify a 60-minute time slot during which they will be available for testing at a specified location each day, if required. The athlete must be available and accessible for testing at the location and time they have specified.
- Athletes can update their whereabouts information via the Drug Free Sport NZ website, text, email and telephone at any time.
- The whereabouts system is used by all anti-doping organisations around the world as required by the World Anti-Doping Code.
- Athletes in the RTP who either fail to file accurate whereabouts or are not available for testing during their 60-minute time slot are deemed to have committed a “strike”. Three strikes within an 18 month period constitutes an anti-doping rule violation.
- If found guilty of a whereabouts violation, an athlete can be banned from sport for a period of up to two years.
- Athletes wishing to retire whilst assigned to the RTP may do so (and will no longer have to provide whereabouts information). This must be done formally and means they cannot return to high level competition without a six month stand down period.
Changes to the Sports Anti-Doping Rules 2015:
- In 2015 the rules relating to the RTP will change so that strikes can only be accumulated over a 12-month period, rather than an 18-month period.
- Athletes who are serving sanctions for a violation for three whereabouts failures over 18-months may apply to the Sports Tribunal for the remaining part of their sanction to be lifted from January 1, 2015.
The applicable proccess for Hearings and Appeals:
- Under New Zealand’s Sports Anti-Doping Rules, Drug Free Sport NZ must take a case to a Tribunal, either the New Zealand Sports Tribunal or one convened by an individual sport. The vast majority of New Zealand Sporting Organisations (such as Triathlon NZ) provide for matters to be referred to the New Zealand Sports Tribunal.
- A decision of the New Zealand Sports Tribunal is binding, but can be appealed by Drug Free Sport NZ; the athlete or other person who is the subject of the decision; the relevant International Federation; or the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
- All appeals under the New Zealand Sports Anti-Doping Rules are made to the Swiss based Court of Arbitration for Sport which is the final appellant body under the WADA Code (except where matters of Swiss law may apply).