I started looking into the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA, and the strict liability clause and began to wonder how strict it really is. Here is an explanation to answer some questions that you might we wondering about! Here is what I came up with.
The strict liability clause draws a clear line for athletes who take tests for performance enhancing drugs. The World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA, uses the clause to govern large numbers of amateur and professional athletes. For competitive cyclists specifically, the strict liability clause often means taking extreme measures to make sure of a clean test.
Regulation is necessary. Cycling competitions must seem fair, for the sake of the riders as well as the sport. However, regulation must seem fair as well, and must respect athletes’ rights.
What the clause says
WADA enforces the strict liability clause in every sport it monitors. The clause states, “Athletes are responsible for any Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers found to be present in their bodily Specimens. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing use on the Athlete’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti-doping violation.”
In other words, it does not matter if a cyclist did not intend to ingest a banned substance. It does not matter if he was not negligent or she was not at fault. A positive test means the athlete has broken the rules. The testing organization does not need to prove that the athlete meant to cheat.
An cyclist’s career will not necessarily end because of a positive test. However, an elite cyclist who becomes ineligible to play for two years loses income from prizes and probably from endorsements. Victories disappear from the record book retroactively, and his or her performance history is forever tainted.
Who the clause governs
In 1982, the Olympics Organizing Committee, the OOC, expanded the number of athletes under its control. To make the Olympics more popular, it changed the rules to allow paid professional athletes to compete as amateurs at the games. As a result, well-known athletes played in the Olympics, and audiences increased.
Another effect was that certain professional athletes came under the control of the OOC and subsidiary organizations. In order to stay eligible for many competitions, athletes signed contracts that bound them to play by WADA rules. The committee gained the power to sanction competitors in ways that could shrink their income and blight their careers.
What competitive cyclists must do
To deal with the strict liability clause, cyclists must stay vigilant. Champion cyclist Amber Neben took contaminated vitamins and failed a test in 2003. She credibly contended that the USA Cycling organization gave her the pills. In the end, she endured a six-month suspension instead of the more common two years.
Never eat anything unless you know precisely what it is. Rely only on nutrition and carefully planned training to juice your results. A two-year suspension will effectively end a career.
The strict liability clause reassures the public that sports contests are clean. However, the regulations as they stand contain few protections for players.
Champion cyclists can lose their livelihood through a mistake. Some spend large amounts of money to defend their good name and right to make a living. In the end though, once a cyclist is found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs, there is no real appeal.
Nevertheless, cycling has a responsibility to protect itself. Competition must be fair, and must be seen to be fair. The athletes themselves must be responsible for keeping cycling honest.