The doping scandals within the sports world are frequently mentioned by the media and have brought a major overhaul of regulations. Regarding the Team Sports, it appears that if the consequences for the individual athlete who is found guilty of a doping offence are clearly defined by the various regulations, the consequences on teams are less obvious. Thus, doubt is cast on the fairness of certain measures for the teams which compete within the rules.
Therefore, this blog aims to shed light on the various regulations and to analyze the sanctions policy of the ruling bodies through the case-law.
- The code (WADC) of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is the core document that provides the framework for harmonized anti-doping policies, rules and regulations within sport organizations and among public authorities. On November 17, 2007, the WADA's Foundation Board has approved a revision of the Code (WADC-2009) which took effect on January 1, 2009 (n1).
Regarding the consequences of a doping offence on teams, the WADC-2009 provides:
"If more than two members of a team in a Team Sport are found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation during an Event Period, the ruling body of the Event shall impose an appropriate sanction on the team (e.g., loss of points, Disqualification from a Competition or Event, or other sanction) in addition to any Consequences imposed upon the individual Athletes committing the anti-doping rule violation (11.2). The ruling body for an Event may elect to establish rules for the Event which impose Consequences for Team Sports stricter than those in Article 11.2 for purposes of the Event (11.3)".
As compared to its predecessor, WADC-2009 has introduced innovations concerning consequences of anti-doping rule violations by individual athletes for their teams (n2):
- The threshold for disciplinary action against the teams has increased. A penalty is now applied to the team if more than two ("more than one" within the WADC) of its members are guilty of a doping offence;
- While WADC provided the possibility to punish the team in case of a doping offence by its member, WADC-2009 imposes the obligation upon the ruling body of the event to take appropriate sanctions;
- WADC-2009 now provides a specific rule confirming the possibility left by WADC of imposing sanctions upon teams in addition to sanctions upon individual members;
- Finally, WADC-2009 allows the ruling body to establish rules for an event which impose consequences stricter than those in Article 11.2.
We also need to emphasize that while WADC provided specific rules concerning sports which are not Team Sports but where Awards are given to teams (such as track and field relays), WADC-2009 provides no express rule for team competitions within such sports. Thus, the WADC-2009 leaves each International Federation total discretion as to the rules to adopt for its own sport. Considering the goal of the WADA for a "harmonized anti-doping policies", one can already ask why the sanctions should be different in the various individual sports which have relay events?
- The International Olympic Committee (IOC), in its own rules for the Olympics in Vancouver 2010 (Article 9), simply refers to the rules of the International Federations concerning the principle and the type of sanctions to be taken for teams in the case of a doping offence from its members.
- Thus, considering these provisions, many International Federations provide slightly different regulations about the consequences on teams of a doping offence of their members:
- The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) imposes an automatic disqualification for relay teams if one of its members is found guilty of a doping offence (Article 42);
- The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) suggests that the team may be disqualified from the competition in progress and/or future competitions, in accordance with UEFA disciplinary regulations, if more that two members are found to have committed a doping offence in relation to a prohibited (non-specified) substance or method (Article 21.02);
- A similar provision is given by the regulations of the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) within is Article 59. Indeed, the FIFA provides that there shall be a sanction against the team, but that sanction is not necessarily the disqualification of the whole team.
- Thus, the first observation that can be made about the practical consequences in the renewed WADC-2009 is that "the combined effect of these innovations could lead to a harshening of the consequences for the teams in case of anti-doping rule violations by their members, although the increase of the threshold for imposition of sanctions upon teams could sometimes lead to their release of liability as compared to WADC" (cf: n2).
Second, one will notice that none of these regulations - besides the rules of the IAAF - imposes an automatic disqualification of the teams if more than two members are found guilty of a doping offence; the types of sanction are often left to the discretion of the ruling bodies. Why? Is it because it's necessary to consider the ramifications to innocent athletes in the team of any sanction? (n3). What about the innocent athletes of the opposing team in the event of a defeat?
These regulations say nothing less than a football team could win the world cup with two doped players without any penalization for the team as such. Worse still, with more than two doped members, the sanction will still not necessarily be the disqualification from the competition.
So, what are the practical applications of these regulations?
One of the most notorious sports in regards to doping is the track and field. A few cases have indeed already been made about the consequences for the teammates of a doping offence of one of the athletes.
Thus, if everyone remembers - due to a Decision of the IAAF - the British men's 4x100m relay team was stripped of its Silver Medal won during the World Athletics Championships of 2003 following the positive test submitted by Dwain Chambers, but the recent case-law shows us that such outcomes can be successfully challenged by the teammates.
The most recent CAS award was rendered on 16 July 2010 after Marion Jones' teammates, who competed with her in the women's 4x100m and 4x400m relay events in the Sydney Olympic Games, appealed the IOC's Executive Board's Decision in 2008 to disqualify the U.S relays from both events (n4). They were ordered to return all medals and diplomas awarded to the members of both relays. This punishment, however, was dismissed in this CAS award when the panel chose to set aside the above decision in light of the fact that at the time of the Games there was no express IOC or IAAF rule that clearly allowed the IOC to annul the relay team results if one team member was found to have committed a doping offence. In doing so, the CAS merely followed its award rendered the 20 July 2005 in which the Gold Medal obtained by the U.S team in the men's 4x400m relay event at Sydney was confirmed, despite the positive test submitted by Jerome Young (n5). The impact of these two athletes (J. Young and M. Jones) on the results of their respective teams, however, was substantially different.
Confusion, nevertheless, is palpable in the very text of the award of the 16 July 2010: "The Panel acknowledges that the outcome of this case may be unfair to the other relay teams that competed with no doped athletes helping their performances; however such outcome exclusively depends on the rules enacted or not enacted by the IOC at the time of the Sydney Olympic Games".
If such outcomes can be understood from a strictly legal point of view, it is hoped - for the teams playing within the rules - that the sports bodies will build on the latter conclusion at the next opportunity. This opportunity could follow from the admission in January 2010 of Crystal Cox to doping during the 2004 Olympic Games, where she was a member of the women's 4x400m U.S relay team Gold Medal winning. As Cox ran in only the preliminaries and not in the final, it remains to be seen if her teammates will lose their medals. The IOC has begun a disciplinary procedure involving Cox and the U.S relay team, and the IAAF Council agreed the team's result should be disqualified under its 2004 rules (n7).
If the IAAF seems to have chosen a policy of disqualification for the relay events, in traditional Team Sports such as football this policy, in case of a doping offence of their members, is far from automatic.
Indeed, the few cases show that teams may face disciplinary action in the form of a fine but it is unlikely they will face disqualification from a particular competition. However, one particular case came to the CAS where it was argued by the Welsh football team (FAW) that the Russian team should be disqualified from the European Championship of 2004 (n8).
The FAW lost out to Russia in playoff for the European Championships indeed. Wales appealed to the CAS following the UEFA's Decision not to throw Russia out of the competition after one of its players, Egor Titov, failed a routine drug test following the first leg of their victorious playoff agains Wales. The player in question was a non-playing substitute during the first leg where Wales obtained a draw and then played 59 minutes of the return leg, which was ultimately won by Russia (0-1). The UEFA's Decision was based on its Disciplinary Regulations (ed. 2002) which stated that "implicated associations, clubs and individuals are called to account for being accomplices or abettors"; so given that the appellant was unable to prove that Russian Federation were actually implicated in its player taking drugs, the CAS held that Russia should be able to compete in the tournament (n9).
Some important remarks can however be drawn from this case:
- First, contrary to the opinion of the UEFA, it shows that the CAS does have authority in this area. Therefore, such ruling bodies must align their rules to those of international codes such as the WADC-2009.
- Second, the CAS concludes with the following words: "Although the panel understands and sympathizes with the FAW's concern at having played a team with a cheat, at least in the first match, the panel, like all UEFA bodies involved before had to apply the UEFA rules, and not to allow its sympathy to distract it or to dictate the outcome of the appeal".
Is it Therefore to be hoped that the will to harmonize the disciplinary procedures will follow its way until we reach a single standard and that the ruling bodies will be less reluctant to ban a team from a competition depending on the circumstances.
The fact that the UEFA has not thrown the CSKA Moscow out of the Champions League in 2009, despite the positive test of two of its players for a banned substance, seems to confirm that the traditional Team Sports are not ready yet to go one step further (n11).
If again the solution of the latter case is legally justified; if the interest of the teammates must also be taken into account, it is worth asking whether current regulations are justified in terms of equity. The same question may arise regarding the leeway left to the governing bodies. If the IAAF appears to have hardened its policy on this issue - which should lead to positive results for teams exclusively respectful of the rules - sports like football still have a very flexible policy, which leads to an obvious divergence of interest.
1. Information about the WADC-2009, available at:
2. A. L. Celli, L. W. Valloni, D. A. Pentsov, "Sanctions for anti-doping rule violations in the revised version of the World Anti-Doping Code", The International Sports Law Journal (2008 3-4) at p.41.
3. J. Marshall, C. A. Hale, "Will the new WADA code plug all the gaps? Will there be by-catch?", The International Sports Law Journal (2008 1-2) at p.40.
4. CAS 2008/A/1545 Andrea Anderson, La Tasha Colander Clark, Jearl Miles-Clark, Torri Edwards, Chryste Gaines, Monique Hennagan, Passion Richardson v. International Olympic Committee (IOC), award of 16 July 2010.
5. CAS 2004/A/725 United States Olympic Committee (USOC) v. International Olympic Committee (IOC) & International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), award of 20 July 2005.
6. La Tasha Colander-Richardson raises a bouquet of flowers after accepting the Gold Medal with other members of the U.S Women's 4x400m Relay Team on Saturday, September 30th, 2000 at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
7. IAAF statement can be read on the IAAF Council Meeting Notes (Doha 2010, 15 March), available at:
8. CAS 2004/A/593 Football association of Wales (FAW) v UEFA, award of 6 Julz 2004.
9. Peter Charlish, "Football Association of Wales v. UEFA: only dopes don't cheat", Case comment, International Sports Law Review (2004).8. CAS 2004/A/593 Football association of Wales (FAW) v. Union des Associations Européennes de Football (UEFA), award of 6 July 2004.
11. Article of the BBC (9 December 2009), available at:
Note: The use of the product in question (Sudafed), which was not on the banned list in 2009, should have been reported to UEFA, a procedure that did not follow the team doctor. The Wolfsburg team regretted this outcome, since the qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League was in stake.
1. The rules: