A player friendly approach to anti-doping violations - the “Kolasa” case

Rugby ball outside the scrum
Tuesday, 23 September 2014 By Matthew Chantler

A recent National Anti-doping Panel Appeal Tribunal decision, Sebastian Kolasa v. UK Anti-Doping,1 highlighted the importance of Article 10.5.4 of the 2009 WADA World Anti-Doping Code (2009 Code)2.

Article 10.5.4 of the 2009 Code provides:

Admission of an Anti-Doping Rule Violation in the Absence of Other Evidence

Where an Athlete or other Person voluntarily admits the commission of an anti-doping rule violation before having received notice of a Sample collection which could establish an anti-doping rule violation (or, in the case of an anti-doping rule violation other than Article 2.1, before receiving first notice of the admitted violation pursuant to Article 7) and that admission is the only reliable evidence of the violation at the time of admission, then the period of Ineligibility may be reduced, but not below one-half of the period of Ineligibility otherwise applicable.”3

The case involved a semi-professional rugby league player who became the first British athlete to be banned for deliberately evading a drug test.4

Ultimately, the player’s appeal was successful and his suspension was reduced from 24 to 15 months. This was as a result of the player’s reliance on Article 10.5.4, which allows for the period of ineligibility to be reduced if the athlete voluntary admits the anti-doping rule violation before sample collection, or, as in this case, admits the doping charge before notice of the alleged violation is given.  

Facts

In August 2013, in the middle of the playing season, the player signed for London Skolars (Skolars). As a result, the player missed the talk on anti-doping rules given to the players at the start of the season.

On Friday 16 August, the player attended a party at which cannabis was smoked. He did not smoke any himself but later became concerned that he might have inhaled second hand cannabis smoke. On Wednesday 21 August 2013, the Skolars were selected for out of competition testing at their training ground. The player was with the squad at the training session and became aware that the testers were present. He did not know that cannabis is prohibited in-competition only and that as this was an out of competition test, the sample analysis would not be screened for cannabis. He did not know that this would not be an anti-doping rule violation.

The players were told to wait in the changing rooms, however the player left the training complex. On Friday 23 August 2013, a doping control officer attending at the player’s residential address and undertook a doping test with the player. The player stated that he was nervous due to the possibility that he may have inhaled second hand cannabis smoke at a party. The player’s sample tested negative.

On 16 October 2013, the player was interviewed by the RFL. The player admitted that the reason that he left was to avoid the doping control personnel.

As an aside, interestingly the RFL stated at the outset that they believed that the player could rely upon Article 10.5.4 because of his admission at the interview. This is in contrast to other sports governing bodies that take a ‘prosecution’ role and thus take a ‘hard line’ approach.

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Written by

Matthew Chantler

Matthew Chantler

Matthew, a solicitor at Mills & Reeve LLP, specialises in Sports Law and is an FA and RFL Registered Lawyer. He advises players' associations including Professional Players Federation, Professional Footballers' Association, PFA Scotland, Rugby Players Association, 1eagu3 and their members, a number of professional football clubs, players and agents on regulatory and legal matters. 

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