Anti-doping - Strict Liability

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Knowledge Level: Beginner

Strict liability is the underlying principle of anti-doping: riders are solely responsible for any prohibited substance found in their system despite whether there was an intention to cheat or not. It is imperative that every rider understands what strict liability means and that they incorporate the principle into their day-to-day lives.

Why is understanding strict liability so important for a rider?

Not knowing about anti-doping rules is not an excuse for a rider. 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 can happen regardless of whether a rider deliberately uses a prohibited substance or prohibited method, or unknowingly uses a product containing a prohibited substance. Many riders have had to endure sanctions 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.

What does strict liability mean for riders?

Strict liability means that riders 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 a rider. They must question the advice given to them by people in positions of authority or by those who seemingly offer an expert opinion. Riders 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 rider support personnel should understand their potential influence on a rider and encourage them to exhibit strong anti-doping principles. Being advised to take or use something will not be an excuse for a rider – riders are solely responsible for what’s found inside their system.

Under the Code, if a rider tests positive for a prohibited substance they could receive a ban of up to four years. A rider may be eligible for a reduced sanction if they can prove they bore ‘no significant fault or negligence’, or where they offer substantial information to further assist the doping authorities. WADA retains absolute discretion on whether to completely eliminate any ban. This occurs very rarely.

Key message:

Riders are 100% responsible for any prohibited substance found in their body. Additionally they are 100% responsible for managing their conduct and the choices they make which may affect their anti- doping activities regardless of their level or type of cycle sport competition.

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