Australian Competitors - Anti-Doping Laws

21 April 2010

Australian Sports Competitors are subjected to random drug tests. The tests are carried out by Drug Control Officials (“the officials”) appointed by the Australian Sports Drug Agency (“ASDA”).

The collection of samples (either urine or blood) from competitors must be carried out by officials in accordance with the requirements of the relevant drug testing scheme (“the scheme”). The schemes are created pursuant to sub-section 9(11)(a) of the Australian Sports Drug Agency Act 1990 (“the Act”);

The competitors are also required to provide the sample in accordance with the scheme.

Whilst most competitors are aware of the banned substances and/or the sample collecting procedures, they may not be aware of the repercussions of their failure to provide a sample upon a request being made or testing positive to a relevant scheduled drug or doping method.

In the event that an official makes a request for a sample to be provided in accordance with the scheme and a competitor fails to comply with the request, the consequences for the competitor are devastating. In normal circumstances the competitor is given the opportunity to make submissions to ASDA in order to provide same with a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with the request. In the event that ASDA is not satisfied with the excuse, the competitors name is entered on ASDA’a register of notifiable events.

In the event that the competitor wishes to appeal the decision made by ASDA, the competitor is required to make application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (“AAT”) to review the decision. If the competitor’s appeal is unsuccessful, ASDA will serve the competitors relevant sporting agency with an infraction notice.

Once being served with the infraction notice, the sporting agency, is required to deal with the competitor in accordance with its own anti-doping policy. The policy will typically require the agency to sanction the athlete either by conducting its own hearing or referring the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The same procedure applies to an athlete who has tested positive to a relevant scheduled drug or doping method.

Leading up to the Olympic Games, various competitors have been banned from competing at the Games as a consequence of contravening the scheme. Given the enormity of the repercussions relating to a drug violation, ASDA’s decision to list a competitors name on the register of notifiable events is often controversial.

In June of 2004, ASDA named Caroline PiIleggi, weightlifter, on the register for allegedly failing to comply with a request to provide a sample. Ms Pileggi appealed ASDA’s decision, claiming that a request for a sample was either not made at all, or not made in accordance with the requirements of the relevant drug-testing scheme. In particular Ms Pileggi claimed that the Officials did not identify themselves nor ask her to provide a sample. Meerkin and Apel acted on behalf of Ms Pileggi in her appeal to the AAT and in her subsequent appeal to the Federal Court.

The Australian Weightlifting Federation referred the matter to Court of Arbitration for Sport in accordance with its anti-doping policy.

The Act has been broadened further to impose penalties for competitors who evade a request to provide a sample.

We note that this article is not intended to be a complete outline of your responsibilities pursuant to the scheme, nor the consequences of testing positive or failing to comply with the scheme. This article is intended rather to provide a brief overview of the scheme for the purpose of alerting competitors to the importance of understanding:

  1. their responsibilities pursuant to the relevant scheme;
  2. their rights relating to the testing procedures pursuant to the relevant scheme;
  3. their rights of appeal;
  4. the anti-doping policy of their sporting agency; and
  5. the repercussions of contravening the anti-doping laws

In the event that you require specific advice with respect to the above or any other matters relating to doping in sport, please do not hesitate to contact Isaac Apel of our office.