The International Swimming League (ISL) clarified its anti-doping policy this week in the wake of WADA’s decision to suspend Russia from international competition for four years. The ISL will allow Russian athletes to compete, as long as they don’t have a prior doping ban.
“ISL will continue to allow athletes from Russia to compete in the league if they do not have a previous doping ban,” the ISL said in a statement this morning. “As a result, all Russian athletes currently competing in the league are free to continue competing, including at the upcoming Grand Final in Las Vegas.”
The ISL, in its first year as a professional entity, touts its zero-tolerance policy towards doping violations – athletes who are given a doping suspension of any length are disallowed from the professional swimming league. However, the nuances of that policy have already been tested several times over the league’s inaugural year. A few other brushes with international anti-doping law:
- Early on, the ISL held firm to its policy, disallowing American Madisyn Cox (who had a suspension reduced after showing that one of her multivitamins was contaminated without her knowledge) and Australian Thomas Fraser-Holmes (who never actually tested positive, but missed three tests over a one-year period).
- When Australian Shayna Jack tested positive, the ISL suspended her participation, pending the official outcome of her anti-doping hearing.
- However, several athletes who have tested positive or violated anti-doping rules were allowed to compete in the ISL – the key difference being that those athletes weren’t handed a suspension for their positive tests. American Will Licon was given a warning by USADA for declaring the use of an inhaler with a banned substance in a 2019 test. Licon didn’t test positive for the banned substance, but was given a public warning for an anti-doping rules violation. The ISL has allowed Licon to swim this season, though an almost-identical situation a few years back with American Amanda Kendall earned her a three-month suspension that would make her ineligible for the ISL. Dutch swimmer Kira Toussaint had an anti-doping case against her dropped without charges; she’s been eligible this season in the ISL. And so has Grigory Tarasevich, a Russian swimmer who tested positive for meldonium and had some previous meet results disqualified, though he wasn’t given any suspension after the test.
In a statement this week, the ISL continued to use individual doping suspensions as the benchmark for their zero-tolerance policy. Because WADA’s ban is on Russia as a nation (and will still allow Russian athletes without prior doping convictions to compete internationally under the Olympic banner), the ISL won’t blanket ban all Russian athletes from competition in the swimming league.
“We will not ban clean Russian athletes solely because of their nationality,” the ISL statement says. “Athletes competing in our league are individuals and not representatives of nations.”
That sets up one interesting gray area in the case of Vladimir Morozov, the standout from the ISL’s Iron franchise. Morozov may face a challenge to his Olympic and World Championships eligibility, based on his inclusion in the McLaren Report. However, without ever being given a doping suspension, he would remain eligible for competition in the ISL moving forward.
The full ISL statement is below:
Our position on the participation of athletes in the International Swimming League is very clear: any swimmer with a previous disqualification for breaking anti-doping rules is not allowed to be part of any ISL club roster.
Thus, ISL will continue to allow athletes from Russia to compete in the league if they do not have a previous doping ban.
As a result, all Russian athletes currently competing in the league are free to continue competing, including at the upcoming Grand Final in Las Vegas.
We will not ban clean Russian athletes solely because of their nationality. Athletes competing in our league are individuals and not representatives of nations.
The ISL is an independent commercial organisation that works independently of governing bodies, the Olympic Movement, International Federations and National Federations.
To note, the ISL respects WADA and correctly follows all anti-doping procedures. We work closely with relevant national anti-doping authorities in the countries where we organise our matches.
All swimmers competing at ISL matches are subject to in-competition testing according to already established doping control rules.
All swimmers must provide their consent to be tested during ISL matches, otherwise they will not be allowed to compete.
The relevant anti-doping authority has the authority to determine which swimmers will be selected for testing in all ISL matches.