Athletes’ union welcomes WADA’s revised recreational drugs list

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The World Players Association (WPA) said athletes who tested positive for recreational drugs would no longer be left to suffer with their careers in jeopardy following changes to WADA’s list of prohibited substances.

In August, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said that athletes testing positive for recreational drugs out-of-competition would be banned for 1-3 months instead of two years when the policy is changed next year.

Earlier this week, WADA published a revised list of prohibited substances that recategorised certain recreational drugs as substances of abuse and not performance-enhancing substances.

The anti-doping body added cocaine, diamorphine (heroin), methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA/’ecstasy’) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as substances of abuse in the 2021 list.

The WPA, an association that represents around 85,000 athletes globally through more than 100 player associations, said that in nearly all previous cases, players consumed these substances “recreationally” or suffered from “underlying challenges with addiction”.

“We are pleased that WADA has finally agreed to manage substances of abuse cases from a player health and wellbeing perspective,” WPA executive director Brendan Schwab said in a statement on Friday.

“It is now essential that no player serves a sanction one day longer than they have to under the new rules. Swift action by anti-doping authorities will ensure players will no longer be left to suffer with their careers in jeopardy.”

If an athlete can show these drugs were consumed out-of-competition and not related to enhanced sport performance, the suspension imposed would be three months, reduced to one month if they complete a drug rehabilitation program.

The WPA added that anti-doping authorities must now collaborate with player associations and WADA to ensure those serving existing sanctions for consuming these substances should be permitted to apply for a reduced sentence.