Supreme Court of Canada – Doping in Sports is Criminal Fraud Against Gambling Community

Earlier this year I discussed an important decision by the Supreme Court of Canada finding that doping in sports can amount to criminal fraud.  Today the Supreme Court of Canada published their full reasons for judgement.

What does this have to do with MMA and other combat sports?  A lot.  The takeaway from this important case is that if you are guilty of doping in combat sports, not only can you face regulatory penalties, you can be exposed to criminal charges and face lawsuits not only from your opponent but also the betting public!  Simply take this quote from the case and apply it to doping in MMA

[f]raud consists of being dishonest for the purpose of obtaining an advantage and which results in prejudice or a risk of prejudice to someone’s ‘property, money or valuable security’. There is no need to target a victim . . . and the victim may not be ascertained.”

The case (R. v. Riesberry) involved doping in horse racing.  The Defendant was convicted with the Courts finding that seeking to gain an edge through doping defrauded the betting public with an analogy that gamblers are entitled to rely on clean sport much in the same way that investors are entitled to rely on an honest prospectus.

In upholding the fraud conviction the Supreme Court of Canada provided the following reasons –

[25]                          Mr. Riesberry injected and attempted to inject the racehorses with performance enhancing substances. The use of such drugs is prohibited and trainers such as Mr. Riesberry are prohibited even from possessing loaded syringes at a racetrack. This conduct constituted “other fraudulent means” because in the highly regulated setting in which he acted, that conduct can “properly be stigmatized as dishonest”: Olan, at p. 1180. He carried out these dishonest acts for the purpose of affecting the outcome of two horse races on which members of the public placed bets.  His dishonest acts, therefore, were intended to and in one case actually did result in the possibility that a horse that might otherwise have won would not. The conduct therefore caused a risk of deprivation to the betting public: it created the risk of betting on a horse that, but for Mr. Riesberry’s dishonest acts, might have won and led to a payout to the persons betting on that horse. To return to Viscount Dilhorne’s words in Scott, Mr. Riesberry’s dishonest conduct created a risk that bettors would be deprived dishonestly of something which, but for the dishonest act, they might have obtained.

[26]                          There is a direct causal relationship between Mr. Riesberry’s dishonest acts and the risk of financial deprivation to the betting public. Simply put, a rigged race creates a risk of prejudice to the economic interests of bettors. Provided that a causal link exists, the absence of inducement or reliance is irrelevant. I agree with the Court of Appeal that Mr. Riesberry’s reliance on Vézina and Côté v. The Queen, [1986] 1 S.C.R. 2, is misplaced. That case made it clear that

[f]raud consists of being dishonest for the purpose of obtaining an advantage and which results in prejudice or a risk of prejudice to someone’s ‘property, money or valuable security’. There is no need to target a victim . . . and the victim may not be ascertained. [p. 19]

[27]                          This statement covers what Mr. Riesberry did.

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