The 101 on the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code

In December 2017, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) kicked off a three-phase 2021 World Anti-Doping Code Review Process. Fast forward almost two years and in November 2019 at WADA’s Fifth World Conference on Doping in Sport in Poland, the 2021 Code Review Process and new Standards were reviewed and approved by the Agency’s Executive Committee – you can read more on the decision on WADA’s website here.

UKAD’s resident Code Implementation Project Manager, Sam Pool, shares the detail with us below on what the new 2021 Code is, why it’s important, and how UKAD will support key stakeholders to implement the Code’s changes.

What is the World Anti-Doping Code?

The World Anti-Doping Code (Code) is the core document that harmonises anti-doping policies, rules and regulations within sport organisations and among public authorities around the world. It currently works in conjunction with six International Standards, which aim to foster consistency among anti-doping organisations in various areas: Testing and Investigations; Laboratories; Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs); the List of Prohibited Substances and Methods; the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information; and Code Compliance by Signatories. 

Why is the World Anti-Doping Code important?

Since coming into force on 1 January 2004, the Code has been a powerful and effective tool in the harmonisation of anti-doping efforts worldwide. This can be seen by the overwhelming support of governments and sports in accepting the Code, in addition to the growing body of jurisprudence from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), in supporting the principles of the Code.

The goal of the Code is for all athletes to benefit from the same anti-doping procedures and protections, no matter the sport, the nationality, or the country where they’re tested, so that all athletes participate in competition that is both safe and fair. Its adoption led to several significant advances in the global fight against doping in sport, including the formalisation of certain rules and the clarification of stakeholder responsibilities. This new approach to anti-doping brought consistency to a previously disjointed system.

The Code has also been instrumental in introducing the concept of “non-analytical” rule violations. Non-analytical rule violations have allowed anti-doping organisations to apply sanctions in cases where there is no positive doping sample, but where there may still be evidence that a doping violation has taken place (e.g. through a combination of three missed tests/whereabouts failures; longitudinal testing; evidence brought forward through an investigation).

The 2021 Code Review process specifically has focused on ensuring the Code continues to remain fit for purpose, as the world of anti-doping constantly evolves. In this review, questions were addressed relating to the protection of whistleblowers, retesting, compliance, education, the increase in cases arising due to the use of social drugs, and issues identified as a result of the Russian doping crisis.

Why is the World Anti-Doping Code being updated and how often is it updated?

The Code is a living document, designed to develop and evolve along with anti-doping practices, to ensure the rules, regulations and policies are all in harmony with modern thinking, technologies and practices. WADA engages in extensive consultation and thorough review of the Code and its associated International Standards on a periodic basis. 

The first Code came into effect in 2004, followed by one in 2009, 2015 and the most up-to-date version in 2021.

How will UK Anti-Doping support me ahead of the 2021 Code coming into operation?

UKAD has appointed a dedicated 2021 Code Implementation Manager, Sam Pool, to oversee the project, co-ordinate the necessary changes relating to the updated Code and International Standards, and to work alongside National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and other stakeholders. He will be supported by key personnel from across the organisation, specifically identified for their subject expertise. A Code implementation timeline will run from November 2019 through to 1 January 2021.

Changes to the UK Anti-Doping Rules are likely during 2020 before they come into effect on 1 January 2021 – you can download the current rules as a PDF here.

UK Anti-Doping will communicate these changes, updates and any actions on the UKAD website and our social media channels, as well as our bi-monthly stakeholder e-newsletter and directly via email in certain instances. 

What are the key changes?

UK Anti-Doping will publish a summary of the key changes, as well as resources, tools and template text on how the new Code affects athletes, athlete support personnel and NGBs in the New Year, once the 2021 changes to the Code have been reviewed thoroughly. A comprehensive communications plan will ensure stakeholders are kept regularly updated, while new Education resources will be prepared and made available to download during 2020.

Who can I speak to if I have any more questions?

You can contact UK Anti-Doping via our dedicated 2021 Code Implementation Project Manager, Sam Pool. He can be contacted via email (

As our Code Implementation project progresses, we will also publish information and reminders regularly via our Twitter account, @ukantidoping.