A recent National Anti-Doping Panel Appeal Tribunal decision has highlighted the importance of adequate and regular education sessions for sportspeople on regulatory matters.
Sebastian Kolasa, a semi-professional rugby league player at Championship 1 team London Skolars, became the first British athlete to be banned for deliberately evading a drug test.
The player’s suspension was reduced on appeal from 24 to 15 months as a result of his reliance on article 10.5.4 of the WADA Code 2009.
Article 10.5.4 allows for the period of ineligibility to be reduced if the athlete voluntary admits the anti-doping rule violation before sample collection, or, as in this case, admits the doping charge before notice of the alleged violation is given.
On 16 August 2013, Kolasa attended a party at which cannabis was smoked. He did not smoke any himself but later became concerned that he might have inhaled second hand cannabis smoke. On 21 August 2013, the London Skolars were selected for out of competition testing. Kolasa was with the squad at the training session and became aware that the testers were present. He did not know that cannabis is prohibited in-competition only and that as this was an out of competition test, the sample analysis would not be screened for cannabis
Despite the players being told to wait in the changing rooms, Kolasa left the training complex. It is unlikely that he would have left had he received adequate education and had known that this would not be an anti-doping rule violation.
On 23 August 2013 a doping control officer visited the player at home and undertook a doping test. Kolasa stated he was nervous due to the possibility that he may have inhaled second hand cannabis smoke at a party, however, the player’s sample tested negative.On 16 October 2013, the player was interviewed by the RFL and admitted the reason he left was to avoid the doping control team. This admission was sufficient to make Kolasa guilty of an anti doping violation but he was able to rely upon article 10.5.4 and have the mandatory two year suspension reduced to 15 months.
The case again highlights the inadequacies of the education provided to athletes. Many clubs hold one doping seminar pre-season but this is of no benefit to those, like Kolasa, that join mid-season. The case also highlights the potential application, depending on the facts, of article 10.5.4.