A Brief History

In 1999 the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was established following the World Conference on Doping in Sport held in Lausanne, Switzerland, as a result of what was called the “Declaration of Lausanne” by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As an independent governing body, WADA’s goal is to “promote, coordinate, and monitor the fight against doping in sports in all its forms.”

WADA ensures harmonisation and equity in athlete drug testing by maintaining uniform minimum standards, imposing sanctions for doping violations, and “coordinating the efforts of sports’ organizations, anti- doping organizations and governments to combat doping in sport.” It accomplishes all of this through the “World Anti-Doping Program, which consists of the WADA Code, International Standards (including the Prohibited List, Testing Standards, Laboratory Standards, and Therapeutic Use Exemptions), and Models of Best Practice.”  The first WADA code was approved by nearly 80 national governments and almost all of the major sports federations. “It is described as ‘a core document that will provide a framework for anti-doping policies, rules and regulations within sport organizations and among public authorities.’” Today there are more than 120 national governments and 660 sport organisations that have accepted the WADA code.

What is the Prohibited List?

WADA produces a list of substances and methods that are banned in sport. It updates this list at least annually, with the new list taking effect on the 1st January each year.

The list is divided into substances and methods that are:

  1. Prohibited at all times
  2. Prohibited only in-competition (a period of time defined by each sport, but in athletics this means within 24 hours of competition).
    Those substances banned at all times would include (but are not limited to): hormones, anabolics, EPO, beta-2 agonists, masking agents and diuretics. Those substances prohibited only in-competition would include but not be limited to: stimulants, marijuana, narcotics and glucocorticosteroids. Also banned at all times: methods such as blood transfusion or manipulation, or intravenous injections in some situations.

It is important to remember that not all substances and methods are named on the Prohibited List. Even if not expressly named, a substance and method can be deemed prohibited if:

  1. It is not currently approved by any governmental regulatory health authority for human therapeutic use (e.g. drugs under pre-clinical or clinical development or discontinued, designer drugs, substances approved only for veterinary use), or
  2. It has a similar chemical structure or similar biological effect(s).

A substances or method can be added to the Prohibited List if it is deemed to meet two of the following three criteria:

  1. It has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance
  2. Use of the substance or method represents an actual or potential health risk to the athlete
  3. Use of the substance or method violates the spirit of sport (as described in the introduction to the Code).

Prohibited substances and methods are classified by the following categories within the List:

  • S0. Non-approved substances
  • S1. Anabolic agents
  • S2. Peptide hormones, growth factors, related substances and mimetics
  • S3. Beta-2 agonists
  • S4. Hormone and metabolic modulators
  • S5. Diuretics and masking agents
  • S6. Stimulants (in-competition)
  • S7. Narcotics (in-competition)
  • S8. Cannabinoids (in-competition)
  • S9. Glucocorticoids (in-competition)
  • M1. Manipulation of blood and blood components
  • M2. Chemical and physical manipulation
  • M3. Gene doping


What are the ways an athlete can be banned?

There are numerous ways an athlete can be sanctioned under the WADA code, Article 2 of the said code specifies various circumstances and instances which constitute an ADRV (Anti-Doping Rule Violation).  It also states that the athlete or any person that can be sanctioned by the WADA shall be responsible for knowing what are the circumstances and also to be aware of the substances and methods which constitute an ADRV.

Let’s look at various methods or circumstances that constitute an ADRV:

2.1 Presence of a Prohibited Substance or its Metabolitesor Markers in an Athlete’s Sample.

What does this mean, it means that it is the Athlete’s personal duty to ensure that no Prohibitedsubstance enters his or her body and that he/ she is personally responsible for any prohibited substance or its Metabolitesor Markersfound in his/her sample. That being said it is not necessary to establish Fault,Negligenceor Knowing use on the Athlete’s part.

2.2 Use or Attempted Use by an Athlete of a Prohibited Substance or a Prohibited Method.

It is the Athletes personal duty to ensure that no prohibited Substance or Method is used, how is this different from the one above, Article 2.2.2 specifically states that the success or failure of the Use or Attempted Use of Prohibited substance or Prohibited Method is not material.

2.3 Evading, Refusing, Failing to submit to Sample Collection

Evading, Refusing, Failing to submit to Sample collection after notification without Compelling Justification results in an ADRV.

2.4 Whereabouts Failure. (This topic will be discussed in detail below.)

2.5 Tampering or Attempted Tampering with any Part of Doping Control

Intentional interfering or attempted to interfere with a Doping Control Official, providing fraudulent information to an Anti-Doping Organization or intimidating or attempting to intimidate a potential witness and any other conduct which subvert the Doping Control process which would otherwise not be included in the definition of Prohibited Methods.

2.6 Possessionof a Prohibited Substanceor a Prohibited Method.

Possession of any substance which is in the prohibited list by an athlete unless the athlete establishes that the possession is consistent with a Therapeutic Use Exemption (“TUE”) granted in accordance with Article 4.4 of the code or other acceptable justification is held as an ADRV.

2.7 Trafficking or Attempted Trafficking in any Prohibited Substanceor Prohibited Method.

Trafficking of any substance or any method that is specifically prohibited by the list constitutes an ADRV.

2.8 Administration or Attempted Administration to any Athlete In-Competition of any Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method, or Administration or Attempted Administration to any Athlete Out-of-Competition of any Prohibited Substance or any Prohibited Method that is prohibited Out-of-Competition.

It is to be noted that ADRV is not only applied to the athletes but also the coaching staff and anyone involved with the Athlete, his team or as it’s called these days his “Entourage”

2.9 Complicity

To assist, encourage, aid, abet, conspire, cover up or any other type of intentional complicity involving an anti-doping rule violation, attempted anti-doping rule violation or violation of Article 10.12.1 by any other person, is subject to an ADRV.

Last but not the least

2.10 Prohibited Association.

Association by an Athlete or any other Person subject to the authority of an Anti-Doping Organization in a professional or a sport-related capacity with any Athlete Support Person who is serving a period of ineligibility or if not ineligible, convicted or found in a criminal, disciplinary or professional proceeding to have engaged in conduct which would constitute a violation of anti-doping rules. Although for this provision to apply it is necessary that the Athlete or other Person has previously been advised in writing by an Anti-Doping Organization with Jurisdiction over the Athlete or other person or by WADA of such other person’s disqualification status and the potential consequences of association with such other person.


What is the Whereabouts rule?

Whereabouts are information provided by a limited number of top elite athletes about their location to the International Sport Federation (IF) or National Anti-Doping Organization (NADO) that included them in their respective registered testing pool as part of these top elite athletes’ anti-doping responsibilities.

Why is the Whereabouts rule important for clean sport?

As out-of-competition doping controls can be conducted without notice, they are one of the most powerful means of deterrence and detection of doping and are an important step in strengthening athlete and public confidence in doping-free sport. Accurate whereabouts information is crucial to ensure efficiency of the anti-doping programs, which are designed to protect the integrity of sport and to protect clean athletes.

The concept of out-of-competition is not new. Experience has shown that out-of-competition testing is crucial to the fight against doping, in particular because a number of prohibited substances and methods are detectable only for a limited period of time in an athlete’s body while maintaining a performance-enhancing effect. The only way to perform such testing is by knowing where athletes are, and the only way to make it efficient is to be able to test athletes at times at which cheaters may be most likely to use prohibited substances and methods.

An athlete in the RTP (Registered Testing pool) is required to specify for a period of three months in advance, a one-hour period in every single day between 5 am and 11 pm when they will be available for testing. The athlete must advise where they will be for this hour and must make sure that they are in fact at this specified location at the specified time. The athlete must include such information as:

  1. Their address and contact details;
  2. If they have a disability that may affect testing;
  3. Location details for where they will be staying for each day in the 3-month period;
  4. Location details for where they will be training, working or doing any other regular activity for each day in the quarter;
  5. The usual times that these activities would take place; and
  6. Location details for any events they are competing in.

How do Athletes get selected for the RTP?

A registered testing pool (RTP) is a list used in the athletics industry. It consists of top-level athletes from all sports selected by a national anti-doping organization and/or international federation of a particular sport representing the athlete in question. Athletes are not selected in this RTP by WADA but in fact by their International federations or the NADO of the specific country. That’s brings us to a very important question,

Is the Whereabouts rule infringing privacy? 

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in January 2018 was faced with the exact same question in a case filed before it by 2 applicants one being Longo, a retired multiple world champion cyclist and the other being a group of national sporting unions representing French footballers, basketball players and rugby players. Their claim was that the whereabouts system was an invasion of ‘right to respect for private and family life’ as guaranteed by article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The ECHR rejected the case, ruling unanimously that there had been no violation of Art 8. This was a major victory for WADA, the ECHR held that “Taking account of the impact of the whereabouts requirement on the applicants’ private life, the Court nevertheless took the view that the public interest grounds, which made it necessary, were of particular importance and justified the restrictions imposed on their Article 8 rights,” read a summary of the verdict.

Is the Whereabout rule really not infringing any laws on privacy? Imagine if your boss required you to provide where you would be for one hour of every day at least three months in advance. It would seem impossible  to comply with such an absurd requirement. Most people would find such a request to be unreasonable or an invasion of one’s privacy. Sounds absurd right? Not only this but when the athlete fails to be present at the “specified time” on three occasions within a twelve-month period results in a doping offense, punishable by a one-year suspension. Any combination of 3 missed tests and /or failures to provide accurate whereabouts information within 12-month period now leads to the opening of a disciplinary proceeding by the ADO with jurisdiction over the athlete. Sanctions range between 1 and 2 years depending on the circumstances of the case.  For the athletes this rule is like ‘putting a whole town in prison to catch one criminal.’

Here’s what athletes think about the rule:

The world indoor hurdles champion, Lolo Jones, and Olympic pole vault champion, Yelena Isinbayeva, have publicly condemned the new anti-doping rule as overly intrusive and out of line.

Serena Williams, America’s top-ranked women’s tennis player, called the rule “over the top” and “very invasive.”

The world’s fourth-ranked men’s tennis player, Andy Murray, described it as being “so draconian that it makes it almost impossible to live a normal life.”

WADA is introducing an app to monitor Whereabouts which comes out in November 2019. For more info click here.

What do you think about the whereabouts rule? I would love to hear your thoughts on it, comment below and let me know.

Divy Kadakia 

One thought on “WADA & Whereabouts

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