The World Anti-Doping Agency is considering a crackdown on athletes who come up with 'the dog ate my homework'-style reasons to explain away positive doping tests. According to documents obtained by Cyclingnews, WADA is set to recommend penalty increases between 50 and 100 percent for athletes who trot out the same tired old excuses when they return a positive test, if they are subsequently found guilty of a breach of anti-doping regulations.
WADA's list - officially dubbed the 'Reverse Mitigating Circumstances Schedule' - reads like a shopping list of implausible explanations presented by athletes in recent years. Pared of the legal language necessary to make the classes of excuse comprehensive, it includes classics such as:
The drugs are for my dog
The drugs are for my mother-in-law
My mum told me to take it
Someone must have spiked my drink bottle
Nobody would be stupid enough to take that drug anymore because testing is so good
It must be a contaminated supplement
My body makes that drug out of the contraceptive Pill (or any other legitimate medication)
I have a naturally high level of (any substance that does not occur in nature)
One consequence of this initiative is expected to be a reduction in the number of athletes attempting to defend themselves against accusations of drug use. While this would save money for sports governing bodies, it creates concerns that athletes' civil liberties are being trampled in the fight against drugs. "We do worry that increasing penalties for athletes who attempt to defend themselves using these reasons goes against natural justice," said a spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union. "But then again, who cares that much about over-paid dopers when there are real instances of oppression to worry about?"
For its part, WADA has yet to decide if the new list will become part of its anti-doping code. "Yes this is something we are considering," said a WADA spokesperson. "For too long we have had to endure excuses from sportspeople that would have got them laughed out of fourth grade. With this initiative WADA hopes to at least encourage creativity in the explanations doped riders come up with."