USADA Declines to Justify Differences in Kendall, Licon Suspension Lengths

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) was non-committal in response to a SwimSwam inquiry for a further explanation of the different suspensions for two American swimmers who committed seemingly-similar anti-doping violations in the last 18 months.

The public-facing details in the cases of Amanda Kendall and Will Licon seem nearly-identical, including the wording used by USADA in announcing their suspensions:

  • Both swimmers declared the use of an inhaler called Breo Elipta, which contains the prohibited substance vilanterol.
  • Neither swimmer actually tested positive for the prohibited substance vilanterol.
  • Both swimmers were using a “theraputic dose” under the care of a physician.
  • Neither athlete obtained the appropriate Theraputic Use Exemption (TUE), though both appear to have been eligible for such an exemption.

When we asked USADA to help us understand the difference between the two cases, their statement indicated that there are often confidential details about the cases that they can’t disclose that might influence the length of the suspension.

“While at face value some case details may appear the same, we must do our due diligence and investigate every case individually in fairness to all athletes.”

Licon received only a public warning for his violation, while Kendall received a 3-month suspension. While on face value, that gap doesn’t seem significant, the pressures from the newly-formed International Swimming League (ISL) means that the financial difference between a 0 month suspension and a 3-month suspension becomes infinite

Kendall’s 3-month suspension makes her ineligible to compete in the ISL ever (based on the current policy), while Licon remains eligible to compete because he was never disqualified, according to the ISL.

Suddenly, small differences in decisions by official anti-doping authorities will have the unintended consequences of subjecting athletes to ‘double jeopardy’ – an additional punishment outside of the bounds of the World Anti-Doping Code. The Court of Arbitration for Sport previously ruled that the International Olympic Committee’s attempt to ban any athlete with longer than a 6 month doping sanction to compete at the next Olympics would amount to double jeopardy, and would not be in line with their signing of the World Anti-Doping Code. While the ISL’s effort to add an extra sanction to athletes disqualified for anti-doping rules violations is similar in nature to the proposal by the IOC, the ISL is not a signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code, nor is it necessarily bound by rulings from the CAS.

Licon is currently a member of the Los Angeles Current. The LA Current is one of 8 teams that are scheduled to compete in the inaugural season of the International Swimming League. The Current are in Group B, and their first meet is scheduled for October 18th-19th in Lewisville, Texas.

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1 year ago

We can’t just let them mistreat everyone. Everyone needs to be penalized the same for each situation

1 year ago

Anyone else think the ISL anti-doping policy is just a tiny bit extreme? In cases like Kendall’s, Toussaint’s, Lochte’s, and Cox’s they weren’t really doping and clearly had no intention to do so so I feel like they should be eligible

Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

Braden you shoulda been a lawyer

Swimming legally
Reply to  dude
1 year ago

Braden could have (but maybe not should have) been a lawyer. Special training and a certificate is not necessary to think clearly and the Braden explanation makes sense. HOWEVER, since I actually am a lawyer, and hope I think clearly, I want to make a prediction. Failure to allow an athlete to pursue a professional career once a suspension is served can and will eventually be challenged. Right now, there may not be enough money on the line to make an individual pursue the legal solution. But this is coming. Mark my words.

Reply to  Swimming legally
1 year ago

speaking legally, Kendall has a (weak) gender discrimination claim against both usada and isl. I’m not saying the decision was motivated by gender, but on its face the only glaring difference between the two cases is gender. I’d take the case, especially if I could get ny or ca state law. I’d also take it just to get discovery from usada to figure out how this happened.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

I think the policy came about to survive legal challenges from FINA based on the EU Commission’s decision on the International Skating Union case. The ISU basically claimed they needed to be a sanctioning monopoly for the safety of the athletes — in particular, the risk of doping in other leagues/events. The Tom Shields/Michael Andrew/can’t remember the others lawsuit in California against FINA was pending during this other case. The ISL had to come out with a black-and-white anti-doping rule to take FINA’s sanctioning argument off the table.

Reply to  Yolo
1 year ago

It covers their arse if they just apply a straight blanket ban. Once you start picking and choosing, however genuine, things get complicated pretty quickly.

Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  Dee
1 year ago

They might anyway – see Braden’s post above

Reply to  Yolo
1 year ago

Nope it’s perfect. All the ISL athletes should be beyond reproach.

1 year ago







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, …

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