13th January 2021, 16:58 | anti-doping
Rugby League player Danny Bridge is one of several sports people affected by new World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules relating to recreational drugs.
Bridge, 27, tested positive for cocaine following his club Oldham’s match with Whitehaven in February 2020 and was subsequently banned by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) for two years.
WADA issued an updated version of its World Anti-Doping Code on 1 January, which includes certain changes in respect of recreational drugs. The RFL’s Anti-Doping Rules have been amended to comply with the new code.
Under the new rules, individuals who take a ‘substance of abuse’ (a definition which includes recreational drugs such as cocaine) and can establish that the drug was taken ‘out of competition’ with no intention to ‘enhance performance’, can apply to have their bans reduced to three months. Those who agree to a process of rehabilitation could also have their bans reduced further to just one month.
As Bridge was originally banned more than eight months ago and was able to demonstrate that his offence occurred out of competition without attempting to improve his performance, he is now able to resume his career immediately.
RFL Chief Regulatory Officer, Karen Moorhouse, says:
“We certainly don’t approve of players using recreational drugs, far from it. But we do welcome the distinction between performance-enhancing substances and recreational drugs taken out of competition and without intention to improve performance.
“UKAD’s priority, with our support, is to catch those who cheat and deal with them accordingly. However, we recognise that there are often underlying reasons why people use recreational drugs. A lengthy ban does additional harm to people already potentially suffering from wider personal problems. These players can still expect a ban, but with education and rehabilitation programmes in place, their careers may be resumed after serving their bans.
“Whilst we welcome the changes, all Rugby League players are reminded that taking any prohibited substance is a breach of the rules and could be a criminal offence. Any time away from the sport can still harm a career and have long-lasting implications. When it comes to competing, we also want all players to make well informed and positive decisions, to stay clean and avoid illegal drugs.”
UKAD has published the names of seven athletes, including Danny Bridge, whose bans from sport have now been updated and reduced to three months due to the World Anti-Doping Code changes.