Sports Anti-Doping Rules and World Anti-Doping Code 2021

Wednesday - November 11th 2020

This year there are some significant changes to New Zealand’s Sports Anti-Doping Rules which reflect updates to the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code and associated International Standards. The most significant changes are summarised below.


The protection of athlete health is now the top reason for the existence of the Code. When the Code was first launched in 2004, concepts such as fair play and ethics in sport were paramount but now health has been elevated to be the main driver of the anti-doping rules.

Rule change – notification of Prohibited Association

The rules around prohibited association have changed, removing the requirement for a national anti-doping organisation to write to an athlete or other person and notify them that an athlete or support person is banned. Instead, DFSNZ is only required to prove that the athlete or other person knew that they were associating with someone in a sporting capacity who was serving a ban. This should make it less difficult to establish a rule violation of prohibited association.

Additional anti-doping rule violation - Protection against retaliation
A new anti-doping rule violation has been created to protect people who want to report doping, or have reported doping behaviour, from threats or retaliation. Receiving information about suspicious activity is an increasingly important part of DFSNZ’s anti-doping work, and this new rule violation means that people who report doping are protected. Sanctions for intimidation or retaliation can range from a two year ban to a life ban from sport, depending on the circumstances.  

Change in approach for substances of abuse

A new category of substances of abuse has been introduced into the 2021 Prohibited List, comprising cocaine, heroin, MDMA and THC (cannabis). In order to benefit from this change, an athlete must prove use of these substances occurred out of competition and wasn’t for sporting performance, and the Rules now recognise this as a societal problem rather than a sporting problem.  As a result there are potentially significantly lower penalties available, as well as support to address addiction.

Definition of recreational athlete

WADA now requires anti-doping organisations to define a recreational athlete, meaning that there can be different categories of athlete and more flexibility in the range of possible sanctions if an athlete competes at a lower level. Generally speaking, recreational athletes have not competed at an international or national level for the previous five years, are not part of a registered testing pool and have not competed in premier, senior grade or open categories in sports events listed on DFSNZ’s website. 

For recreational athletes, there is now more discretion to recommend a lighter sanction if a rule violation is proven. This can range from a reprimand and no ban, to a ban of up to two years. Sanctions will depend on the circumstances of the case, for example the type and number of substances involved.