FIFA Anti-Doping Regulations 2021 – Key Changes and Developments

FIFA has today published the final version of its Anti-Doping Rules (“ADR”) which come into force on 1 January 2021 .

This announcement follows the consultation and approval of the new World Anti-Doping Code (“Code”) by the World Anti-Doping Agency (“WADA”) which took place in November 2019.

As a signatory to the Code, FIFA is obliged to integrate the Code with its own regulations and adopt the amendments as set out in the Code. Not only has FIFA amended its own ADR to become compliant with the Code, but it has also incorporated further measures in an attempt to ‘address the challenges in the fight against doping in football worldwide’ which will no doubt be well received by member association countries and stakeholders across the world.

Some of the key changes to the ADR are as follows:

  1. Education – to assist in the ‘fight against doping’ as committed to by FIFA, the ADR have been amended to include a stronger emphasis on education around anti-doping. Specifically, the ADR now define ‘Education’ as “the process of instilling values and developing behaviour that foster and protect the spirit of the sport, and to prevent intentional and unintentional doping” which points to a focus not just on anti-doping training and education at a grass-roots level, but also throughout the football pyramid.

  2. Reclassification of substances of abuse – the ADR will now distinguish between certain banned substances (which are not used in a context related to sport) which are identified by WADA as falling into the category of ‘substances of abuse’ on the WADA Prohibited List. The classification by WADA of such ‘substances of abuse’ (which are likely to be predominantly social drugs) will take place annually. Under the ADR, the period of ineligibility for a player who is found to have committed a violation involving any such substance will be a maximum of three months, which can be shortened to one month if the player undergoes a rehabilitation programme. Under the previous ADR, players taking such substances may have been facing bans of several years.

  3. Differentiation between types of players - the ADR now identify two new categories of players: ‘protected persons’ (players or persons who are minors and/or have no international experience) and ‘recreational players’ (players who have not played internationally or nationally for the preceding 5 years). Players who fulfil such criteria may benefit from lesser sanctions, as well as the burden of proof in determining their guilt being relaxed.

  4. Amendment to the ‘in-competition’ period - under the current Regulations, the ‘in-competition’ period commences 24 hours before the kick-off of a match (or first match of a competition) and terminates 24 hours after completion of the sample collection that takes place after the final whistle of a match (or final match of a competition). Under the new ADR, the period in which a player will be considered to be ‘in-competition’ will commence at 23.59 on the day before a match in which the player is scheduled to participate, through to the end of this match (including the sample collecting process relating to the match). The effect of this will be to create different ‘in’ and ‘out’ of competition windows within football tournaments.

  5. Sanctions for non-compliant member associations - to ensure that the ADR are properly incorporated and enforced across the world, the ADR now provide for the exclusion of non-compliant member associations from football competitions for specific periods. Such non-compliance is to be declared by WADA in order to consider any such exclusion.

Following publication of the ADR, member associations must now take steps to incorporate the ADR into their own anti-doping regulations to ensure compliance with them. Whilst member associations are themselves responsible for determining how to ensure such compliance with the ADR, the usual manner in which this is done is either by:

  1. adopting the ADR directly (i.e. by amending or updating its own regulations to adopt the new regulations contained in the ADR); or

  2. adopting the ADR by reference (i.e. including provision within its own regulations which refer expressly to the incorporation of the ADR and their precedence in the event of any discrepancy or conflict).

To assist with the implementation and harmonisation, FIFA has confirmed it shall arrange a series of webinars with member associations to identify and highlight the key changes.

In summary, these are welcome and necessary changes to the ADR. They take account of the changing landscape of doping in sport and signal a move away from a one-size-fits-all approach.

Mills & Reeve regularly advise high profile professional athletes and players on a variety of doping related issues. For further information on how we can help, please contact Phil Hutchinson.

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