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UK Anti-Doping set to shorten bans for out-of-competition drug test fails

UK Anti-Doping, the organisation responsible for protecting the integrity of sport in the UK, is set to shorten bans for athletes who fail out-of-competition drug tests for cannabis and cocaine.

The purpose of the shortened bans is to signify the "emphasis on athlete welfare" providing flexible sanctions, therefore, reducing bans for taking substances that are not strictly for performance purposes but of a recreational nature.

Most recently, Luke Traynor, a Scottish long-distance runner, received a two-year ban from sport after testing positive for cocaine. British tennis player, Dan Evans also received a ban from sport in 2017 after testing positive for cocaine use at the ATP event in Barcelona.

Traynor describes his mistake as "incredibly stupid", while Evans says, "If you saw the ruins it left behind, you'd be pretty confident I won't take that drug again."

In addition, further reductions of sanctions may also be introduced. Available to athletes who complete an approved treatment programme and comply with anti-doping regulations following the violation. In Evans case, his ban was reduced from four years to one as according to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Evans "promptly admitted his violation".

New UKAD rules follow changes to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code when the rules come into effect in January. Athletes may suffer longer bans for the involvement of what UKAD describe as “aggravating factors” which include, lying to investigators, the involvement of multiple prohibited substances and aggressive behaviour to doping officers.

The addition of forcing rules on discouraging reporting of information and reacting against whistleblowers will also be introduced as part of the rule change. Giving UKAD the ability to clamp down on doping by implementing stricter laws.

Nicole Sapstead, UKAD chief executive, says, "The UK Anti-Doping rules are the backbone of our mission to keep sport clean. They reflect the standards set out by WADA in the Code, to make sure that athletes across the world are held to the same high standards.

"We have developed the new rules to ensure that we are able to meet the latest challenges threatening clean sport, and that athletes and the public can have confidence in clean competition."

The new laws are yet to be approved as they may impact athletes who are currently serving bans making them eligible for shorter punishments. Between April and June, the number of tests conducted was down from 2,212 to 126, which is expected as sport was forced to stop due to COVID-19.

Author: James Parker