Among the various changes coming to the World Anti Doping Agency’s 2021 Prohibited List is the creation of a new category of “substances of abuse” with several banned substances being shifted to this category which can bring lighter punishments than other anti doping violations.
These changes are relevant for combat sports as many North American athletic commissions adopt the WADA prohibited list by legislation or regulation.
Specifically WADA has noted the following four substances as Drugs of Abuse:
•Article 4.2.3 of the Code defines Substances of Abuse as those “Prohibited Substances which are specifically identified as Substances of Abuse on the Prohibited List because they are frequently abused in society outside of the context of sport.” Cocaine, diamorphine (heroin), methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA/“ecstasy”) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are designated as Substances of Abuse.
WADA notes that “Other substances are currently under review and may be designated as Substances of Abuse in the future.”.
Athletes who test positive in competition for a Substance of Abuse will receive a lighter punishment than those who face traditional anti doping punishments if they can prove the positive test was linked to out of competition use. As explained by USADA “If an athlete tests positive for a substance of abuse and establishes that his or her use of that substance occurred out-of-competition and was unrelated to sport performance, the athlete’s period of ineligibility will be reduced to three months with no need to further analyze the degree of fault. The period of ineligibility can be further reduced to one month if the athlete completes a substance of abuse treatment program that is approved by USADA.”
For medical uses Therapeutic Use Exemptions remain available. There is precedent in combat sports for cannabis being recognized as a treatment for neuropathic pain under the WADA standards with UFC veteran Elias Theodorou receiving the first ever commission approved Therapeutic Use Exemption for cannabis earlier this year.