Strict Liability and Sports Doping - What Constitutes a Doping Violations and What Is the Effect Thereof on the Team?

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The doping violations by two Springbok rugby players at the 2010 tour to the UK and Ireland made me realise that there is a major lack of knowledge regarding Sports Law and specifically the rules regulating sports doping in South Africa.

The national coach, several other prominent sports personalities and members of the media did not seem to grasp the seriousness of the situation. There seems to be the perception that the players are not guilty of doping violations because they did not know that they were using prohibited substances. The coach even went further to say that if the whole team was tested on that specific day, even more players would have tested positive.

In this case the banned stimulant was in a supplement given to the players in the warm-up before the Test against Ireland and is a product that has been used by the Springboks before - without any adverse analytical findings - and is used by other professional and national teams in both hemispheres. It was manufactured in the UK and was tested at South African Rugby Union's request in order to ensure that it complied with the requirements of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

At the subsequent disciplinary hearing it was then ruled that there was no fault on the part of the Players and that a reprimand be the appropriate sanction on the facts of this case. The disciplinary committee reasoned that

  "the Players have already suffered the ignominy of being sent home
  early from the overseas tour, provisionally suspended for nearly
  three months and having their doping charges made public with the
  concomitant embarrassment, uncertainty, personal anguish and damage
  to their reputations. All of this should serve as a deterrent for
  other players against the indiscriminate and careless use of
  supplements. Any further punishment for the Players in question
  would, however, be out of kilter with their lack of fault in the
  matter". (1)

It is important to note that the match was an international friendly and thus not of the same importance as for example a World Cup match. The Irish Rugby team subsequently did lodge an appeal or any other complaint regarding the doping violations by the two Springboks.

I am however of the opinion the consequences of the doping violations would have been much more severe had this match been a World Cup match.

The aim of this article is thus to show just what exactly constitutes a doping violation and the consequences that it could have on a team.

In order to examine the above it is important to first understand how sports doping is regulated.


Sports doping is regulated by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which was established by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as an independent international doping control body.

The need for such an agency was highlighted by the 1998 Tour de France doping scandal. So in order to ensure a fair playing field and to protect the health of athletes the International Olympic Committee undertook a rigorous programme to combat the doping problem. This started with the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Lausanne in February 1999. And as it was proposed at the conference, the World Anti-Doping Agency was established in November 1999 as an independent international doping control body. Then in 2003 WADA adopted World Anti-Doping Code (WADC). And it is this Code that now regulates sports doping internationally. (2)

The second question is where WADA derives its status or power to regulate the different sporting codes. The answer lies in the importance of membership to the IOC.

The IOC is arguably the most powerful and prestigious sporting organisation in the world. Almost all the different sporting codes wish to be a member of the IOC, and in order to be a member it is prerequisite to accept the Olympic charter. The Olympic charter is the founding text and fundamental source of the law of the IOC. …


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