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Measures to prevent abuse of drugs in sports

Response to parliamentary questions on measures to prevent abuse of drugs in sports

1.            The Government established Anti-Doping Singapore (ADS) as the national anti-doping authority in 2010. SportSG works with ADS and the broader sporting fraternity to ensure that sport in Singapore is free of doping, and that our national athletes compete fairly and safely, and that they can be upheld as role models for Singapore and Singaporeans.

2.            At the national level, Singapore has a clear, well-established policy on drugs. In the context of sport, Singapore has a framework of rules and standards to keep sports in Singapore free of doping, including the use of both recreational drugs and performance-enhancing drugs.  It aims to equip our national athletes with the information, tools, and values for them to exercise sound judgement and choices when it comes to the use of drugs.

3.            There are two key strategies through which this is implemented: One, through education and prevention; and two, through detection and deterrence. Let me elaborate.

4.            First, education is a key preventive measure to discourage intentional or inadvertent doping, and this is done through various platforms.

a.   First, all National Sports Associations (NSAs) are expected to inform and educate their athletes and athlete support personnel on issues concerning sports doping under the framework.

b.   Second, ADS works with NSAs to plan, implement and monitor education programmes for athletes.

i.     These comprise regular updates on issues such as the currency of prohibited substances and methods, the health consequences of doping, and the rights and responsibilities of athletes.

ii.     ADS also reminds NSAs and their athletes on their anti-doping obligations at all pre-Major Games briefings.

c.    Third, it is mandatory for all national athletes to complete modules on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s e-learning platform, called the Anti-Doping Education and Learning (ADEL) Platform, to deepen their understanding of clean sports.

5.            To prevent inadvertent doping, ADS provides the ‘Check Drugs’ function on its website to enable athletes and support personnel to check on the prohibited status of a particular drug or substance. The database contains more than 9,000 medications registered in Singapore and is updated monthly. For medications not on the database, athletes can and should check with a sports physician, or with ADS directly.

6.            Second, on the detection and deterrence front, ADS oversees a robust doping testing regime.

a.   First, ADS develops and regularly reviews a test distribution plan for athletes, with higher testing frequencies for athletes assessed to be at higher risk of doping. Several factors are considered in determining the risk level of doping, such as the athlete’s performance and the type of sports. ADS’ testing regime covers both in-competition and out-of-competition tests.  

b.   Second, ADS also relies on intelligence, such as whistle-blowing sources, to identify and investigate allegations of drug abuse, including following up to conduct tests on alleged offenders.

7.            Under the ADS, sanctions are imposed on athletes found to have violated anti-doping rules. These range from a few months to a lifetime ban, depending on the degree of fault, intention, type of substance used and aggravating circumstances. These sanctions are made public to send a deterrent signal to others.

8.            Other sanctions may also be imposed. For instance, SportSG could suspend the spexScholarship, or other support offered to a carded athlete.  The NSA may also suspend training support for the athlete or their selection for competitions. The Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) or Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) may also separately suspend the selection of the athlete for any Major Games for the appropriate period.

9.            Notwithstanding the range of sanctions that can be taken, it is also important to consider a rehabilitative approach to help the athlete not to offend again. The sporting community will work with the athletes to provide counselling and rehabilitative support they may need.

10.        The Government and the local sporting fraternity looks upon the misuse of drugs as a serious matter.  SportSG, ADS and the fraternity will continue to work together to underscore the importance of complying with Singapore’s laws on drugs and anti-doping rules at all times.

Last updated on 10 October 2022