What are the FA’s Anti-Doping Regulations?

Like many other athletes, football players are prohibited from the use of various performance-enhancing substances and recreational drugs. In accordance with the FA’s Anti-Doping Regulations, players are obliged to undergo drug tests and, if a prohibited substance is found, there can be severe consequences.

There seems to be a low incidence of doping in football, particularly in comparison to other sports such as athletics or cycling. However, there have been some high-profile cases of players who have breached the anti-doping regulations. For example, in 2003, former Manchester United FC player Rio Ferdinand received an 8-month ban and was fined £50,000 by the FA for missing a drug test.

What is doping?

Doping is when players take prohibited substances or use prohibited methods to improve their performance. Doping can also include the recreational use of prohibited substances (however, there are separate regulations governing the use of social drugs during an out of competition period).

Does the use of prohibited substances have to be intentional?

Regulation 6 of the Anti-Doping Regulations imposes a strict liability on players. This means that it is not necessary for intent to be demonstrated in order to prove a violation of the Anti-Doping Regulations. A player’s lack of fault, knowledge or negligence will not be a valid defence to a charge for a breach of these regulations.

What will constitute a violation of the Anti-Doping Regulations?

Part one of the Anti-Doping Regulations sets out 11 violations of the rules, which are as follows:

  1. Presence of a prohibited substance in a player’s sample;
  2. Use or attempted use by a player of a prohibited substance;
  3. Evading, refusing, or failing to submit a sample;
  4. Whereabouts failures;
  5. Tampering or attempted tampering with any part of doping control;
  6. Possession of a prohibited substance;
  7. Trafficking or attempted trafficking in any prohibited substance;
  8. Administration or attempted administration of a prohibited substance to a player;
  9. Complicity or attempted complicity by a participant or other person (i.e. assisting, encouraging, aiding, abetting, conspiring or covering up a violation);
  10. Prohibited association; and
  11. Discouraging or retaliating against reporting to authorities

What are the consequences of a violation of the Anti-Doping Regulations?

If a player is found to have acted in violation of the Anti-Doping Regulations, they could be suspended from all competitions and / or be made to pay a fine. It is therefore very important that players fully understand the Anti-Doping Regulations. This was highlighted by the FA’s Regulatory Commission in its written decision on charges brought against Mr Joshua Yorwerth in 2019. Mr Yorweth was charged for failing to submit a sample collection (in breach of the Anti-Doping Regulations) and for a subsequent admission of the use of cocaine on a non-match day (in breach of the Social Drugs Regulations).

Mr Yorwerth admitted that the reason he evaded / failed to submit to sample collection was because he had been using cocaine that weekend and believed that, if tested, he would face a 2-year suspension. In the written reasons, the Regulatory Commission stated “Mr Yorwerth clearly had no proper understanding of the seriousness of evading a doping test and the severe consequences for him” as if he had been tested and cocaine detected, he would have faced a maximum suspension of 3 months. Instead, he was subject to “a potentially career-wrecking suspension of 4 years”. As a result of this ban, Peterborough United, the club that Mr Yorwerth played for at the time, terminated his contract.

Whilst the Regulatory Commission recognised that it is a player’s personal responsibility to be aware of the relevant regulations, it expressed concern that “Mr Yorweth’s flimsy understanding of this important area may well be typical among young footballers”.

How can we help you?

If you need assistance navigating the FA’s regulations and / or disciplinary process, please contact Vikesh Navsaria, Senior Associate, at [email protected]. Alternatively, you can call us on 020 7632 4300 or make an enquiry.


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