WADA has recently updated its prohibited list regarding substances of abuse ©Getty Images

The World Players Association (WPA) has called on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to ensure athletes serving bans for recreational drugs can apply for a reduced sentence following changes to the prohibited list.

In a statement, the WPA said WADA and other anti-doping authorities should guarantee no athlete that has tested positive for what it calls "substances of abuse" serves a sanction "one day longer than they have to".

Athletes who test positive for cocaine, diamorphine (heroin), methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA/ecstasy) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) could be banned for three months, with the possibility of a further reduction if they complete a rehabilitation programme, instead of two years.

This is providing they can demonstrate it was used out-of-competition and unrelated to sport performance.

The modification to the rule will not become part of WADA's regulations until January 1, the date the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code comes into force.

The WPA welcomed the change, adding that athletes and players serving bans for the four drugs "have consumed substances of abuse recreationally or suffer from underlying challenges with addiction".

WPA executive director Brendan Schwab said the group welcomed the change to WADA's rules ©Getty Images
WPA executive director Brendan Schwab said the group welcomed the change to WADA's rules ©Getty Images

"We are pleased that WADA has finally agreed to manage substances of abuse cases from a player health and well-being perspective," WPA executive director Brendan Schwab said. 

"It is now essential that no player serves a sanction one day longer than they have to under the new rules. 

"Swift action by anti-doping authorities will ensure players will no longer be left to suffer with their careers in jeopardy."

The WPA said WADA and anti-doping organisations should work with players associations and other groups to ensure athletes serving existing sanctions "know they are eligible to apply for a reduction" and the necessary procedures "are in place to ensure players can receive a reduction".

"WADA should ensure players are permitted to apply and receive their reductions now," the pressure group, which says it represents around 85,000 athletes globally through more than 100 player associations, added.

WADA director general Olivier Niggli said extensive consultation on the prohibited list takes place every year "to ensure that any substance or method that may provide performance enhancement, or that may negatively impact athlete health or the spirit of sport, are considered in a timely manner so as to maintain a level playing field for clean athletes".