Most sports fans are now relatively familiar with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the WADA Code (“the Code”), with varying degrees of knowledge. Those who are involved in competitive sport, particularly athletes and coaches, will also be familiar with the List of Prohibited Substances and Methods,1 known as the Prohibited List (“the List”). The List provides the International Standard for identifying substances and methods that athletes are prohibited from using or attempting to use either in-competition or out-of-competition, in sports that are signatories to the Code.2 These substances and methods are “classified by categories (e.g., steroids, stimulants, gene doping)”.3

World Anti-Doping Agency PROHIBITED LIST

How effective the Code and the List are at preventing and catching athletes who have committed Anti-Doping Rule Violations (under the Code) is a point of contention within the sporting, legal and scientific communities. This has been highlighted by a number of recent articles focusing on the exclusion of thyroid medication from the 2016 List, including a piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled, ‘In Rebuff to Usada, WADA Declines to Ban Thyroid Medication’,4 published shortly after WADA’s announcement of the 2016 List on the 19th September 2015.

After reading the media coverage of the announcement of the 2016 List, and following the related discussions on social media platforms, I was left wanting to know more about the List, including questions such as:

  • What is the process for including or removing substances or methods from the List?
  • Who makes the decision at WADA about what is included or removed from the List?
  • What is the background of the people who are involved in that process?
  • What scientific research is taken into account and how is it weighted?
  • How to WADA’s stakeholders, including athletes, feed into this process?
  • How difficult, or is it even possible, to create a List that is legally and scientifically robust and one that is athletes can truly comprehend?