Changes to ADRVs and Bans under the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) has created a Q&A and an infographic below to clarify the changes relating to anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) and length of bans under the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code (2021 Code).

UKAD has also created a guide to the 11 ADRVs according to the 2021 Code, effective as of 1 January 2021 (below).

Stay up to date with the latest information on the Code via, and on UKAD’s social media channels.

What does the new “Substances of Abuse” process mean?

The 2021 Code and Prohibited List has introduced a new category of substances, which are deemed as “Substances of Abuse”. The new Code has set out specific rules on how ADRVs related to these drugs should be managed from 2021.

Shorter bans will be available for such substances when found in-competition if their use is determined to have been out-of-competition and unrelated to sports performance. This is due to recognition that athletes taking these substances might have wider issues with addiction or drug misuse, so anti-doping organisations (ADOs), including UKAD, are placing a greater emphasis on the health and wellbeing of athletes going forward to assist them with getting the help they may need. A further reduction in the length of ban is available if an athlete completes a “Substance of Abuse” treatment programme approved by UKAD.

UKAD has also refreshed its Clean Sport Curriculum, which is used to educate athletes and support personnel, including information on the harmful side-effects and consequences of use of such drugs.

Which drugs are classified as “Substances of Abuse” under the 2021 Prohibited List?

Cocaine, diamorphine (heroin), MDMA (also known as ecstasy) and THC (a psychoactive compound in cannabis) have been identified as Substances of Abuse.

These drugs are also classified as Class A and B in the UK and are illegal.

Will I be given a ban from sport if I use a “Substance of Abuse” and test positive?

Yes, a ban will still be given to any athlete that has returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for these substances. The changes only affect how the case is managed and the length of the ban that is given.

How will a “Substance of Abuse” case be managed? How long will the ban be?

If an athlete returns an AAF for a “Substance of Abuse”, they will be sent a Notification Letter by UKAD which will set out key information including the applicable Consequences. This letter will also allow the athlete to provide an explanation to UKAD within a short deadline before they are formally charged with an ADRV.

If an athlete can prove that the use of the substance in question had been out-of-competition and unrelated to sports performance, the ban will be three months. If an approved “Substance of Abuse” treatment programme is completed, the ban can be reduced to one month.

If an athlete cannot prove that the drug use was out-of-competition and unrelated to sports performance, they may receive up to a four-year ban.

How do I make sure that a “Substance of Abuse” treatment programme is approved by UKAD?

UKAD has developed a policy document which sets out the criteria for determining an approved treatment programme.

Athletes will be made aware of this policy document if they return an AAF for a “Substance of Abuse” and any questions will be handled by UKAD’s Case Management team.

What if I’m currently banned from sport for taking a drug which is to be classified as a “Substance of Abuse” (i.e. bans before 1 January 2021)?

If you think the changes outlined might apply to your case and you want to know if a reduction can be applied to your ban, you should contact UKAD’s Case Management team at

Separately, UKAD’s Case Management team is currently reviewing previous cases where an athlete is serving a ban for a “Substance of Abuse” and considering whether any reductions can be applied from 1 January 2021.

Protecting whistleblowers - who does this new ADRV apply to?

The 2021 Code adds a new ADRV to protect those sharing information on doping in sport (whistleblowing). It will become an offence to either discourage someone from reporting information, or to retaliate against an individual for sharing information. This new ADRV applies to athletes, support personnel or any other Person bound by anti-doping rules. This can lead to up to a lifetime ban from sport.

What does “Aggravating Circumstances” mean?

Bans can be increased by an additional two years where “aggravating circumstances” occur e.g. using multiple banned substances. 

The infographic below sets out which of the ADRVs this can be applied to.