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.