Strict liability: Horror stories and staying safe

As an athlete, you’ve heard of strict liability. It’s one of the most important concepts in anti-doping and means that you alone are responsible for anything found in your sample.  

In this blog post, we break down the four key things you need to keep in mind when it comes to strict liability and share stories from athletes who have been burnt. From the gymnast who didn’t check their meds to a British sprinter whose contaminated supplement lost their team Olympic silver, we share some horror stories and key advice to help you stay safe. 

Let’s get into it. 

#1 Be careful what goes into your body 

As an athlete, you need to be careful about everything you put into your body. Under the principle of strict liability, you’re 100% responsible for any substance found in your system, regardless of how it got there. 

A Kiwi golfer discovered this after testing positive for ostarine. Though the Sports Tribunal accepted her claim that she hadn’t consumed the substance intentionally, the athlete was nonetheless banned from sport for 6 months. 

It doesn’t matter where a substance came from or that you didn’t know that it was banned in sport. If it’s found in your sample, you will be held responsible.  

So, it pays to be extra careful about what you’re putting in and on your body. 

#2 Check your medications 

Even common medications can contain banned substances. That’s why it’s so important that you check every medication on Global DRO before you take them. If you accidentally take something that’s banned in sport, and test positive, you could face an anti-doping sanction. 

A gymnast found themself in just this position after a positive test for Ritalin. The athlete claimed that they didn’t know that the substances was banned in sport. It didn’t matter. They received a 2-year anti-doping sanction for an easily avoidable situation. 

It’s every athlete’s responsibility to know if their medications are banned in sport, and to take appropriate action. Make sure you’re ahead of the game by using Global DRO to check all your medications. 

Find out how to use Global DRO.

#3 Navigate the risk of supplements 

Supplements make bold promises, but the fact is that they are a risk to clean athletes. Why? Because they can contain banned substances. 

Just ask British sprinter C.J. Ujah. A positive test at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics lost his team the relay silver medal , even though he was cleared of intentionally doping.  

It doesn’t matter whether an athlete took something intentionally or by accident, they alone face the consequences. It could be intentional, or a result of cross-contamination. And supplement labels can be inaccurate, so often checking the ingredients isn’t enough. 

Athletes can and do get banned from sport thanks to contaminated supplements. If you choose to use a supplement, we encourage you to find out how you can manage the risk by reviewing our Supplement Decision Making Guide.  

#4 Keep your education up-to-date 

The best way to protect yourself from silly mistakes is by getting educated and updating your education every year. It keeps anti-doping front of mind, and you’ll learn about any important changes that you may have missed – like tramadol becoming banned in-competition from 1 January 2024. Were you aware?

Explore our education.