Snowboarder Jenny Jones at this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi won Great Britain’s first Olympic medal on snow (rather than ice) when she took bronze in the Snowboard Slopestyle.
However, 12-years ago in Salt Lake City Alain Baxter became the first British athlete to win a medal on snow. The medal was later taken away and awarded to Austria’s Benjamin Raich after Baxter failed a post-race drugs test. A minute quantity (20 millionths of a gram) of the banned substance methamphetamine was found in the athlete’s urine sample which he claimed was from an over the counter Vicks nasal inhaler.
He was supported by the BOC to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and though CAS agreed with his argument the IOC’s decision was upheld because of the strict liability rule.
Alain Baxter’s error was buying an American version of a nasal inhaler to clear his sinuses. It had different ingredients to the British version he had used for years, which had been cleared for use by his doctor. The American version was not checked and contained traces of the banned substance levometamphetamine.
Since the games Alain has told the BBC that it was quite hard to take in when they were saying about it being a historic medal for Britain and he had some explaining to do when the archive pictures of him were shown on television news after Jenny Jones won her medal in Sochi.
Baxter did return to ski racing after serving a ban, and competed at the 2006 Games in Turin where he finished 16th; he has since retired from competitive racing in 2009.
So what can athletes learn from this mistake?
What is the Strict Liability Rule?
This is where athletes are 100% responsible for what is ingested into their bodies whether or not the athlete intentionally or unintentionally used a prohibited substance or was otherwise negligent or at fault.
At some point, an athlete is likely to require medication for an illness or infection to allow them to train or compete and many athletes receive information on what to do through the 100% programme run by UK Anti- Doping (UKAD).
But here are a few pointers:-
- Check with your doctor that the medication does not contain a banned substance and that you are able to compete; if it does contain a banned substance is there an alternative medication?
- Even over the counter medications can contain banned substances so should always be checked
- Athletes in the UK can check their medication on the Global Drug Reference Online (Global DRO) which provides athletes and support personnel with information about their prohibited status of specific substances- http://www.globaldro.com
- Athletes in Ireland can check their medication on- http://www.eirpharm.com/sports/search which provides athletes and support personnel with information about their prohibited status of specific substance.
- Some medications are banned just in competition, so be specific when you come to check
What happens if you train or compete abroad?
- Take enough of the prescription with you so you don’t need to buy any abroad
- If you are in the UK, Canada, United States and Japan check- http://www.globaldro.com
- If you are in Ireland check- http://www.eirpharm.com/sports/search
- If you are in any other country outside of those listed you can check the ingredients listed in the medication