Supreme Court of Canada Says Doping = Criminal Fraud in Sports

Update December 18 – today the Supreme Court of Canada published their full reasons for judgement.  A link to these can be found here.


I have previously suggested that PED use can amount to fraud in the world of combat sports and a cheating athlete can be exposed not only to regulatory consequences but also criminal and civil repercussions as well.

Today the Supreme Court of Canada released reasons for judgement making this more than a mere suggestion.  In short the Court supported a decision finding that doping in sports does indeed amount to criminal fraud.

Today’s case (R. v. Riesberry) concerned a decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal involving doping in horse racing.  The Ontario courts convicted the Defendant finding that doping horses defrauds the betting public.  The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously dismissed the appeal making the Ontario reasoning the law of the land.  In short the rcourt supproted the following reasons when it comes to doping being fraud in the world of sports –

…Where there is an attempt (successful or not) to affect the outcome of a race through the use of banned performance-enhancing substances, such a significant breach of the regulatory scheme necessarily places bettors at risk of being deprived of their bets. Indeed, as the trial judge found, the very purpose of the injection was to create “an unfair advantage” for the respondent’s horse. It is obvious that a horse injected with performance-enhancing drugs could run differently than if it was not so injected; in fact, that appears to be at least part of the reason for the prohibition.[4]

[22]      Further, as in Drabinsky, where there is a failure to disclose material non-compliance with the regulatory scheme, it is no answer to say bettors may have relied on other factors in making their bets. Bettors were entitled to assume compliance with the regulatory scheme when weighing those others factors and coming to a final decision. Non-compliance with the regulatory scheme in a manner so as to affect the outcome of a race necessarily puts the bettors’ economic interests at risk. Bettors were deprived of information about the race that they were entitled to know; they were also deprived of an honest race run in accordance with the rules. In these circumstances, the trial judge erred in law because he failed to take account of the regulatory scheme in considering the risk of deprivation issue.

[23]      Further, we agree with the Crown that the trial judge’s reliance on Vézina, supra was misplaced. In Vézina, the Bank of Montreal was a mere conduit for bonds to be submitted to the Bank of Canada and had no money of its own at risk. Here, bettors had their bets at risk. The legal analysis in Vézina has no application to this case.

[24]      Finally, in our view, the trial judge’s closing comments that some bettors would have altered their betting behavior if they had known about the doping, and that the injections created “an unfair advantage” for the respondent’s horse establish that but for his errors of law, he would have concluded that a risk of deprivation had been established.

[25]      In our view, each of the errors committed by the trial judge could have affected his decision on the fraud and attempted fraud charges. In the result, we conclude that the trial judge erred in law in acquitting the respondent on the fraud and attempted fraud charges and we allow the appeal from the acquittals.

The lesson?  If you cheat in combat sports by doping, win or lose you may be facing far greater penalties that those issued by an athletic commission.


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