Why anti-doping efforts come across as heavy-handed

Three Irishmen competed in a tug of war event in July. In the midst of it, they grabbed something to drink.

Turns out the drink included a supplement that had a banned substance.

“We didn’t know,” the athletes said, “but we won’t challenge this case or demand that our B samples be tested.”

“Thanks for your cooperation,” the Irish Sport Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel said. “Because you didn’t know about the supplement and you did everything you were supposed to do after testing positive, we’ll only suspend you for 18 months.”


If they had clearly gained a competitive advantage and won a million dollars, then by all means, invalidate that result. We have precedent for this: Alain Baxter lost a medal for an accidental doping violation but was only suspended for a couple of events.

So does this punishment serve any purpose?

Three Irish Tug Of War Athletes Fail Doping TestsBalls.ie via Trapit.

Published by

Beau Dure

The guy who wrote a bunch of soccer books and now runs a Gen X-themed podcast while substitute teaching and continuing to write freelance stuff.

3 thoughts on “Why anti-doping efforts come across as heavy-handed”

  1. This case seems particularly excessive. I can’t imagine the Irish Sport Anti-Doping Panel believed that the athletes themselves expected some sort of performance boost (and that’s assuming they were aware of the banned substance) during the competition. While I’m not against a punishment, there seems to be no logic to an 18 month ban. Hopefully there is an appeals process where all parties can come to a more reasonable solution; maybe a three month ban followed by a year long probationary period (with a further violation resulting in the application of a 18 month ban).

  2. Anyone can say that they didn’t know what was in a drink or a supplement. Athletes have strict liability in there actions, which when it comes to doping means that they are responsible for what they ingest, regardless of whether they knew or didnt know what substances are in the drink. If this was not in pl;ace then every This sanction will certainly serve as a warning to all other competitors to be fully aware of what they consume

  3. @Brian: Actually, there is no such thing as “strict liability” for athletes when it comes to doping violations. That’s why there are appeals processes – not to mention the testing levels at which doping bans kick in usually give athletes some leeway to account for unwitting ingestion of small traces of a banned substance. Many athletes have tested positive because the legal supplements they are using have been found to have trace amounts of illegal substances – often because the manufacturers produce substances that may be legal for one sport and illegal in another (and cross pollution at these factories can be common). In the case of the tug-of-war athletes it seems they grabbed a drink that was readily available at the venue of the competition, and that drink wasn’t “properly” labeled, making the identification of any banned substances impossible. This is the kind of circumstance that appeals processes generally account for. Athletes have a reasonable expectation that the drinks/food provided to them at a competition be free of any substances banned by that competition.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s