Emmanuel Macedo, California State University, Fullerton.
At the turn of the 21st century, WADA provided international sport much needed unity in the face of an overlapping, confusing, and porous anti-doping movement. However, the agreement to put rules in place that exclude certain drug use and methods is not to say that the sport world suddenly procured a single set of policies. Instead, some sport organizations, like those in the United States, adopted different policies and methods of legislation (i.e. unions/players associations). The below table compares the prohibited list, sanctions, and testing methods of three major sport organizations: the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Basketball Association (NBA) with the policies of WADA. As scholars have mapped WADA’s anti-doping system, analyzing every detail of the paradigmatic approach, this table reveals the similarities and inconsistencies (of testing, sanctions, and prohibited lists) with other functioning systems.
Perusing through the WADA Code (WADC) and each league’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) reveals that for the most part all prohibited lists contain a majority of the same substances (even the NBA “Steroids and Performance-Enhancing Drugs” (SPED) list, though not broken down into categories of drugs, still contains all the usual substances). However, the MLB policy contains one notable variation regarding masking agents. In the MLB masking agents are not included in the prohibited list and its presence in a specimen does not require an automatic sanction. Instead, the presence of a masking agent calls for a re-test. Per their policy: for the presence of a masking agent to be treated as a positive for doping the Independent Program Administrator (an individual chosen by both parties of the CBA to preside over the drug program) must judge that the player tried to mask the use of other prohibited substances.
Between the leagues and WADA there exists a stark difference in the treatment of what the MLB, NBA, and NFL call “Drugs of Abuse”. For the American organizations, most drugs that are commonly categorized as narcotics (i.e. cannabis) carry a separate set of policies from the common performance enhancing substances. The sanctions for a positive test of a drug of abuse vary (usually less severe) and almost always involve a treatment program to help the athlete taper the habit.
Lastly, without a doubt the unionization ability of workers in the United States adds an interesting dynamic to the world of sports, especially regarding doping policies. Perhaps the greatest difference between WADA and the three leagues mentioned above is the bargaining process. The CBA itemizes the collective agreements between athletes and managers of the leagues. Most important, though, athletes with a union model have a sense of agency and accrue real leverage in the policies that govern their behavior. All of the policies described above are the culmination of a process where managers and athletes have a safe forum to express their demands and desires. This process, one where athletes can potentially create or mold the policies (even anti-doping policies) into legitimate forms, does not exist between the policies on the WADC and the thousands of athletes that must adopt its demands.
Overall, it is important to mention that the below table does not denote an exhaustive outline of the policies for each institution mentioned. Missing are various policies regarding the appeal processes and other elements that can cause an athlete to be tested outside of the normal testing regimen mentioned here. Among other differences, this table does not explain the other various ways in which WADA and the leagues differ. Hopefully, this table facilitates inquiry of the different approaches to anti-doping in sport.
Standard Sanction for Positive Tests
World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)(1)
Prohibited at all Times:
Non-Approved Substances (Any pharmacological substance which is not addressed by any of the sections of the List and with no current approval by any governmental regulatory health authority for human therapeutic use [e.g. drugs under pre-clinical or clinical development or discontinued, designer drugs, substances approved only for veterinary use]).
Peptide Hormones, Growth Factors, Related Substances and Mimetics
Hormone and Metabolic Modulators
Diuretics and Masking agents
Manipulation of Blood and Blood Components
Chemical and Physical Manipulation
Prohibited in Certain Sports:
Alcohol (Air Sports, Archery, Automobile, Power-boating).
Prohibited In-Competition only, in the following sports, and also prohibited Out-of-Competition where indicated.
• Archery (WA)*
• Automobile (FIA)
• Billiards (all disciplines) (WCBS)
• Darts (WDF)
• Golf (IGF)
• Shooting (ISSF, IPC)*
• Skiing/Snowboarding (FIS) in ski jumping, freestyle aerials/ half-pipe and snowboard half-pipe/big air
• Underwater sports (CMAS) in constant-weight apnoea with or without fins, dynamic apnoea with and without fins, free immersion apnoea, Jump Blue apnoea, spearfishing, static apnoea, target shooting and variable weight apnoea.
*Also prohibited Out-of-Competition
1. First Offense:
(a) May lead to the disqualification of results from the event(s).
(b) Of a non-specified substance or intentional use of a specified substance; 4 years.
(c) Unintentional use of specified substance; 2 years
2. Second Offense:
For an athlete’s second anti- doping rule violation, the period of ineligibility shall be the greater of:
(a) six months;
(b) one-half of the period of Ineligibility imposed for the first anti-doping rule violation or
(c) twice the period of Ineligibility otherwise applicable to the second anti-doping rule violation treated as if it were a first violation.
3. Third Offense:
(a) Lifetime Ban
Any athlete may be required to provide a Sample at any time and at any place by any anti-doping organization with testing authority over him or her.
Anti-Doping Organizations may test any athlete over whom they have testing authority who has not retired, including athletes serving a period of ineligibility.
National Anti-Doping Organizations and International Federations shall have in-competition and out-of-competition testing over all athletes who are subject to its rules.
Major League Baseball (MLB)(2)
Anabolic Androgenic Steroids and Antiestrogenic agents
Erythropoiesis Stimulating Agents
1. First offense involving a Performance Enhancing Substance: 80-game suspension; First offense involving a Stimulant, DHEA, or a Drug of Abuse: At least a 25-game but not more than a 50-game suspension.
2. Second offense involving a Performance Enhancing Substance: 162-game/183-days of pay suspension; Second offense involving a Stimulant, DHEA or a Drug of Abuse: At least a 50-game but not more than a 100-game suspension
3. Third offense involving a Performance Enhancing Substance: Permanent suspension from Major League and Minor League Baseball
4. Third offense involving a Stimulant, DHEA or a Drug of Abuse: One-year suspension, and any subsequent offense shall result in a suspension for just cause by the Commissioner, up to permanent suspension from Major League and Minor League Baseball
During each Championship season all players shall be tested for the presence of performance enhancing substances, stimulants and DHEA.
(a) Each player will be subject to an unannounced urine and blood specimen collection in Spring Training.
(b) 3,200 Urine specimens and 260 Blood specimens (Only for hGH) will be collected of randomly selected players at unannounced times during each championship season.
(c) 350 Off-Season Urine specimens and 140 Blood specimens (Only for hGH) will be collected of randomly selected players at unannounced times. These test do not screen for Stimulants.
National Football League (NFL)(3)
Anabolic Agents (Anabolic/Androgenic Steroids, Protein and Peptide Hormones, Beta-2-Agonists, Antiestrogenic Agents, SARMs)
Masking Agents (Diuretics, Substances with similar structure or biological effect)
Doping methods (1.Enhancement of Oxygen Transfer 2.Chemical and Physical Manipulation 3.Gene Doping)
1.The first time a Player tests positive for a Prohibited Substance; attempting to substitute, dilute or adulterate a specimen; manipulating a test result; he will be suspended without pay:
(a) Positive test result for Masking Agent --2 regular and/or postseason games.
(b) Positive test result for Stimulant or Anabolic agent – 4 regular and/or postseason games
(c) Positive Test Result for a Prohibited Substance plus a Diuretic or Masking Agent/Attempt to Substitute, Dilute or Adulterate a Specimen/Attempt to Manipulate a Test Result -- six regular and/or postseason games.
2. The second time a Player violates this Policy by testing positive for a Prohibited Substance; attempting to substitute, dilute or adulterate a specimen; manipulating a test result; he will be suspended without pay for ten regular and/or postseason games.
3. The third time a Player violates the Policy by testing positive for a Prohibited Substance; attempting to substitute, dilute or adulterate a specimen; manipulating a test result; he will be banished from the NFL for a period of at least two seasons, subject to any appeal.
Annual: All Players will be tested for Prohibited Substances at least once per League Year.
Preseason/Regular Season: Each week during the preseason and regular season, 10 randomly selected Players on every Club will be tested.
Postseason: 10 Players on every Club qualifying for the playoffs will be tested weekly so long as the Club remains active in the postseason.
Off-Season: Players under contract who are not otherwise subject to reasonable cause testing may be tested during the off-season months at the discretion of the Independent Administrator, subject to the collectively bargained maximum of six (including blood tests) off-season tests. Players to be tested in the off-season will be selected on the same basis as during the regular season.
National Basketball Association (NBA)(4)
Steroids and Performance Enhancing Drugs (SPEDs)
1. For the first such violation, the player shall be suspended for 25 games and required to enter the SPED Program.
2. For the second violation the player shall be suspended for 55 games and required to enter the SPED Program.
3. For a third violation the player shall be immediately dismissed and disqualified from any association with the NBA.
A player shall be required to undergo testing for Prohibited Substances at any time, without prior notice to the player, no more than 4 times each Season and no more than 2 times during each Off-Season.
During each Season, the NBA will conduct no more than 1,525 total tests. During the Off-Season, the NBA will conduct no more than 600 total tests. The scheduling of testing and collection of urine samples will be conducted according to a random player selection procedure by a third-party organization, and neither the NBA, the Players Association, any Team nor any player will receive prior notice of the testing schedule. Urine samples collected during the Season will be tested for all Prohibited Substances; urine samples collected during the Off-Season will be tested for SPEDs and Diuretics only.
A player shall be required to undergo hGH Blood Testing at any time, without prior notice to the player, no more than 2 times each Season and no more than 1 time during each Off-Season. The scheduling of testing and collection of blood samples will be conducted according to a random player selection procedure by a third-party organization.
hGH Blood Testing may also occur at the same time that players undergo random urine tests for other SPEDs, subject to the procedures governing game-day blood testing.
1. 2015 World Anti-Doping Code [Internet]. World Anti-Doping Agency. 2015. Available from: https://wada-main-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/resources/files/wada-2015-world-anti-doping-code.pdf.
2. MLB Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program [Internet]. 2016. Available from: http://mlb.mlb.com/pa/pdf/jda.pdf.
3. National Football League Policy on Performance Enhancing Substances [Internet]. 2016. Available from: https://nflpaweb.blob.core.windows.net/media/Default/PDFs/Agents/2016PESPolicy_v2.PDF.
4. NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement [Internet]. Jan 19, 2017. Available from: http://3c90sm37lsaecdwtr32v9qof.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/2017-NBA-NBPA-Collective-Bargaining-Agreement.pdf