FINA Amends Anti-Doping Rules; Reduces Suspensions for Marijuana, Cocaine

FINA has released changes to its rules that will bring the international governing body for aquatic sports into line with the new World Anti-Code that takes effect in 2021.

Among the major changes is reduced sanction guidelines for “Substances of Abuse,” referencing drugs like marijuana and cocaine.

Under new World Anti-Doping Code rules, sanctions for use of these substances will be just 3 months when an athlete can prove that the use happened out-of-competition and was unrelated to sport performance. Athletes who undergo a rehabilitation program can see that sanction reduced to 1 month.

Other substances classified under the new program include MDMA (ecstacy) and Heroin.

The list is defined by WADA’s List Expert Group “because they are frequently abused in society outside of the context of sport.”

For some advocates of marijuana legalization, especially, which is the most common of these substances that appears in anti-doping control tests, this will be a step in the right direction, though others will argue that there is not justification for marijuana being a banned substance at all.

This new guideline aligns with what has been done in practice; for example, Italian swimmer Andrea Vergani was suspended for 3 months in 2019 for a positive test for cannabis. The same was true for Bulgarian swimmer Dinko Geshev in 2012.

According to the hard-line rules of the International Swimming League, these 1 month or 3 month suspensions would still preclude swimmers from participation in that league.

Other major updates to FINA rules to align with the new World-Anti Doping Code include more flexibility for “Protected Persons” and Minors. Under these rules, more flexible sanctioning rules can be applied to “Protected Persons” that includes individuals who, for reasons other than age, have been determined to lack legal capacity under applicable national legislation. Elite 16- and 17-year old athletes are not included in the definition of Protected Persons and would not benefit from the special flexible sanctioning rules.

However, Elite 16- and 17-year old athletes would still, as minors, be excused from mandatory public disclosure.

Other Major Updates:

  • All athletes participating at the FINA World Aquatics Championships or the FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships will have to complete an online anti-doping education course, ALPHA, prior to participation.
  • Rules were updated giving FINA the ability to exclude Member Federations from its Competitions if they are found ‘not to be in compliance with the FINA DC Rules.” FINA says that this will improve fairness toward member federations, and shifts focus from a number of violations of their members within a 12-month period to rules compliance.
  • More flexibility in the Multiple Violations sanctioning rules to be more proportionate to the violation and not as dependent on the order in which the two violations occurred.
  • Reintroduction of “Aggravating Circumstances” clauses that allow 0-2 years to be added to cases, for example in case of multiple substances or use over a significant period of time.
  • The definition of “in-competition” period was reduced and now means the period beginning at 11:59 PM on the day before the event until the end of the event and the sample collection process related to such event. This was designed to bring uniformity between all Signatories, and becomes relevant in which substances are allowed in-competition versus out of competition.


Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 months ago

I can understand maybe marijuana, but Cocaine, ecstacy, and heroin???????????????????

College Swimmer
Reply to  hafl1
4 months ago

I mean, I’m hardly advocating for their use, but I dont think shooting heroin is going to have a net positive effect on performance.
Imho, make any poor decision you want, as long as the playing field is still level.

Reply to  College Swimmer
4 months ago

Yeah, I’m honestly kind of confused as to why they even test for these things. I guess it’s possible Marijuana and Cocaine could be performance enhancers for a select few people, but why is WADA looking into recreational drug use at all? By competing at the highest level, I know the athletes are willingly giving up privacy and the ability to consume whatever is on banned substance list, so I have little sympathy for those who get caught, but I still don’t comprehend why WADA feels the need to police recreational substance abuse.

4 months ago

SEC schools happy

Reply to  swimfin5
4 months ago


4 months ago

Will USADA and Usa swimming follow suit though?

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

Read More »