Canadian swimmer William Brothers has been suspended by FINA for 4 years, dating back to August 26th, 2015, after the organization attempted unsuccessfully to apply an out-of-competition doping test.
In 2006, Brothers set Alberta Age Group Records in the 800 and 1500 freestyle and was named the Alberta Age Group Swimmer of the Year in 2006 and 2007. In 2009, at just 15, he was named the Canadian Youth Swimmer of the Year.
Brothers was a member of the Canadian National Junior Team between 2010 and 2012, including a 6th-place finish at the 2011 Junior World Championships and a bronze medal at the 2012 Junior Pan Pacs Championships. In 2013 and 2014, Brothers became a member of the Canadian Senior National Team and raced at both the 2013 World University Games, the 2013 World Championships, the 2013 Commonwealth Games, and the 2014 Pan Pac Championships.
On the date of his suspension, two doping control officers showed up at Brothers’ house in Vancouver at 10PM to obtain a blood sample for doping control.
After initially being cooperative, Brothers took a phone call from his father and informed the testers that he would not submit to the blood test for health reasons. Brothers said that those health reasons caused him to step away from the sport over the last month. For privacy reasons, FINA did not reveal the nature of the health issue.
In a letter to FINA after the refusal to test, Brothers told the global governing body for aquatics sports that he had in fact retired but had not submitted the relevant documentation before the collectors arrived.
After much back-and-forth between Brothers’ attorney and FINA, a hearing was held via video conference, where Brothers argued that he was caught off-guard by the doping test at 10pm (which was within appropriate time by FINA rules to call upon him, but was while he was preparing for bed). Brothers claimed that the late timing, combined with his prior decision to retire and the recent death of his coach Randy Bennett, left him “incapacitated…to the point of being unable to make a clear and rational decision.”
Much information about the exact nature of his medical condition was redacted.
Brothers also says that the nature of his medical condition should be taken into account by the FINA doping panel.
According to FINA’s report, Brothers and his attorney made the following argument:
The Athlete stated that he did not have the requisite intention to evade, refuse or fail to submit to a sample collection as he did not have the mental capacity to make a rational decision in that state. His actions were consistent with involuntary behavior and aligned with his prior medical diagnosis and are compelling justification for refusing or failing to submit to sample collection, hence there was no violation of the anti-doping rules, and no sanction is to be imposed on him.
After hearing the evidence, FINA’s panel stated that “the FINA Doping Panel cannot conclude that Mr. Brothers actually was suffering” from the unnamed condition “at the time the testing was to be carried out.”
FINA said that the notion that his father, who is also a medical doctor, was able to diagnose via a phone call that Brothers was at the time of attempted sample collection suffering from the condition was not sufficient evidence.
FINA did take into consideration that Brothers was instructed by his father to not take take the test and deal with the consequences afterward.
The above all resulted in FINA applying the maximum 4 year suspension for a first offence.