Fraser-Holmes Excluded From ISL Due To Missing Whereabouts Suspension

Earlier this year, Australian Olympic finalist Thomas Fraser-Holmes completed his 12-month ban for having missed 3 random drug tests over a 12-month period. Officially cut-off from the Dolphins national team both financially and training-wise, Fraser-Holmes began training again alone in December 2017 after having taken 6 months off. TFH paved his way back to competitive swimming by sealing up 400m IM silver at the 2018 Short Course World Championships in Hangzhou.

Now fully back in the swing of things and looking ahead, the 27-year-old has learned he will be excluded from the new International Swim League (ISL) due to its zero tolerance on doping, even with TFH’s unique circumstance of not actually having tested positive for a banned substance.

Per The Australian, TFH said “They [ISL]came back and said to me that because the sport of swimming needs to be protected from doping, they had to take a stand.”

He further stated,“It is what it is. I get what ISL is about, but surely there has to be a distinction in a doping offence between a whereabouts violation and a positive test. They are not in the same basket. Each case on its merits. There have been those who have offended on multiple occasions and people like me who have had a mishap.”

His situation does open questions regarding where represents true ‘zero’ in ‘zero tolerance’ when it comes to doping. Take the Madisyn Cox case, for example. The American tested positively for Trimetazidine, but a WADA-accredited lab was able to determine that the banned substance was present in both opened and sealed bottles of the multivitamin Cox had been taken for years and had listed on every doping control form she ever completed. Hence, the swimmer was essentially vindicated.

Back to TFH, the IMer stated that, in terms of the increasing hostility between the ISL and FINA, and the fact words such as ‘ban’ and ‘suspension’ were thrown about if swimmers were to compete at ISL events,“I’m just a big believer that the Olympics is the pinnacle of the sport and if they are threatening bans that would cost a swimmer the Olympics, I don’t think that’s worth it.

“I don’t think it (the ISL) is sustainable if that’s what it comes to. To me the most important thing is going to the Olympics and winning gold for my country. That is the ultimate. That is why I swam 12 months on my own. That is why I’m here today because I want to be able to swim for my country next year in Tokyo and try to win medals. This is where it becomes unsettling because if we don’t have our best people in Tokyo, how is that going to benefit Australia? That’s all I’m concerned with.”

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If they say that 3 missed test by TFH is enough not to be included then I guess Madisyn Cox case would fall under the same restrictions for ISL. USA Swimming tells coaches and athletes about the pitfalls of taking things not regulated by the FDA and that in the end, it is up to the athlete to be sure they eat the right things.

The meetings in London didn’t lay out the explicit language that would be used to block those with doping violations, but conversations indicated that meet organizers are very serious about this. At one point, Konstantin Grigorishin (who is bankrolling the league) said something to the effect of (paraphrasing) “if there is an accident, well then that’s unfortunate but they can find somewhere else to race.” So, it seems that swimmers like TFH and Cox won’t be allowed, at least in the initial incarnation. But here’s where the pushback comes: the ISL is also very adamant that the swimmers organize. At first, I expect that ISL organizers will have a great deal of influence over this athletes’ association. However, by forming… Read more »

Ol' Longhorn

They have to take this strong anti-doping position to get around FINA exclusions based on the European ruling in favor of the ice skaters. The EU commission basically said that if there’s a sports-related (rather than strictly commercial) reason for excluding other competitive leagues (i.e., they might dope, not get caught due to lax standards, and set records everyone then has to recognize), they can exclude. The out for FINA in the Shields et al case would simply be to make a compelling case that anti-doping standards wouldn’t be up to snuff in the ISL. The ISL has to be over-the-top strict at least until/if the swimmers get a ruling against FINA.

Compelling argument Ol’ Longhorn. Hadn’t heard that brought up before, but it’s definitely worth exploring.


for discussion sake – was the investigation able to determine how often or how far back the contamination of the supplement happened? Even though MC is completely honest in reporting, if the supplement has been contaminated for a long time (or the whole time), even at very low level or almost undetectable – until her test result last year. I know the test showed only a trace of ban substance and most in the business agreed that the level was too low to considered beneficial. The question is – where does unintentionally getting benefit from a banned substance fall in the spectrum of doping?


Seeing that she had been taking the multivitamin since high school and she has been tested almost 10 times a year it’s safe to assume the contamination was contained in that single lot number of the multivitamin. Since the drug is not produced, consumed or even legal in the United States and the company claims that all their supplements are manufactured in the US, it must have come in by way of a raw material coming in from another country, most likely China. This would explain the single lot number being contaminated as oppose to an intentional long term contamination by the company. Added to the fact that at the microscopic trace of this particular type of drug, hormone modulator,… Read more »


thanks for the additional info and details regarding MC’s case. Her case is rare and well explained.

The theoretical or philosophical question is where does unintentional consumption /benefit of banned substance fall in the spectrum of doping. Not necessary in the case of MC but we cannot ruled out that there are other contaminated supplement around which other athletes consumed/are consuming, subsequently, any effects on the athletes.

Like Branden said in his reply – we are looking into a longer term process of how the sport of professional swimming evolve in their stance on doping. Right now, a lot is dependent on country level anti-doping policy. Interesting time!


My theoretical question on this always this: If a youth (10-16 year old) intentionally takes HGH or steroids or EPO or some other highly performance enhancing drug (let’s assume a legal-to-take drug) while developing and training BUT is not part of any organized sports or competition, then they stop completely taking the PED and a year or so later joins a USAS team and dominates. Did they break any rules? Do the rules state you can have no prior PED usage even before entering the sport? If “they broke a rule”, what now if taking that drug was for a medical reason that they no longer have? Should they be barred from sports because they needed a life-saving drug at… Read more »

Swimmer Brent

I agree with TFH that there’s a clear distinction between actual positive tests and a whereabouts violation. I suppose the approach ISL is taking is that if you think you might have a positive test, you’re better off getting multiple whereabouts violations and then lying low until the substance is out of your system. It’s impossible to differentiate between a true mistake in reporting your whereabouts and actively trying to avoid a positive test. However, I think in the absence of an actual positive test, people with whereabouts violations should be allowed to compete again in ISL events (perhaps subject to increased doping tests) because the vast majority would be innocent mistakes as opposed to positive test avoidance. How do… Read more »


the interesting thing is – ISL is probably not interested in create a new system /standard/team for doping control that WADA or country level anti-doping agency have established – meaning ISL can’t influence when an athlete is subjected to increase doping tests for athletes had whearabouts violations.

I agree that over-confident can result in getting caught. But I am not 100% convince that someone would not miss a test if they know for sure they pee hot….

I actually asked the question if they would build their own anti-doping protocol. It sounded like that wasn’t something that they were prepared to do in advance of launching the league in 2019, but it wasn’t something they’d rule out for the future either.

Ol' Longhorn

Again, I think this will be key. The EU Commission, in finding against the International Skating Union, emphasized that “legitimate sports objectives,” as a basis for excluding athletes who participate in a non-ISU sanctioned events, included “the protection of the integrity and proper conduct of sport, or the health and safety of athletes.” In other words, anti-doping standards. Seems like all FINA has to say is that the ISL isn’t monitoring this closely enough. Without it, it sounds like the ISL is strictly for commercial benefit —- exactly what the ISU was nailed for.


TFH has the right to think or say anything and to count the baskets. just as ISL that doesn’t matter how only matters what.

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