After an announcement in November of 2011 that the ASP would be administering drug testing this year, surfing's governing body have released their Anti-Doping Policy just in time for the commencement of the 2012 World Title Series.
The new ASP Anti-Doping Policy is going to apply to all the ASP Top 34 and ASP Top 17 members competing on the ASP World Tour and ASP Women's World Tour respectively. It also includes any contest wildcards that make up the event draw. The drug testing will cover surfers, although the ASP says that all staff are beholden to anti-substance abuse codes in employment contracts.
Previously the ASP allowed event licensees to conduct testing administered by event sponsors, but the new ASP Anti-Doping Policy will bring professional surfing into line with other international sporting bodies by involving standards prescribed by the World Ant-Doping Agency (WADA) Code and Prohibited List with any testing performed implemented at International Standards.
The policy sets out some stiff penalties for positive tests along with a position on trafficking and administration. The following paragraphs are straight from the ASP Anti-Doping policy:
The period of Ineligibility imposed for a violation of any of the following will result in at least one (1) year Ineligibility for the first violation and disqualification of all the Surfer's individual results obtained in all relevant Events with all consequences, including forfeiture of all medals, points and prizes:
For subsequent violations, longer periods of Ineligibility will apply together with any other sanctions the ARDC (ASP Athlete Rules & Disciplinary Committee) deem appropriate.
Trafficking or Administration
For violations of Trafficking or administration of Prohibited Substance, the period of Ineligibility imposed will be a minimum of four (4) years up to lifetime Ineligibility. An anti-doping rule violation involving a Minor will be considered a particularly serious violation, and, if committed by Surfer Support Personnel for violations other than Recreational Substances referenced in Article 2.3, will result in lifetime Ineligibility for such Surfer Support Personnel. In addition, violations of such Articles, which also violate non-sporting laws and regulations, may be reported to the appropriate law enforcement authority.
According to all reports the ASP surfers played a crucial role in the initiation of this policy and seem to be in full support of its activation.
"I think it is probably overdue in terms of surfing being considered a professional sport and that's what we want it to be," said Adrian 'Ace' Buchan when asked about the new policy, "In terms of drugs having a real effect on a surfers performance, that is probably debatable because I think there are so many variables in surfing. It's not like a 100-metre sprint where if you can get more power in your legs, then you can become a better sprinter. In surfing if you get more power in your legs then maybe it's going to help you do one thing better but it's going to restrict you trying to do others. Overall though, I regard having drug testing in pro surfing as helping to legitimize us as a proper professional sport."
Fellow Top 34 surfer Bede Durbidge agrees.
"I think that it's going to be really good that there'll be drug testing for us, especially so the general public can see we are clean and professional athletes. If we are to be considered professional athletes then we should be seen to be conforming to international rules, especially in regard to drug testing," he opined.
The International Surfing Federation has had a WADA approved anti-doping policy in place for the better of part of 20 years, and as ISA President Fernando Aguerre notes, less than a handful of surfers have failed a test in that time.
"We've had all the best surfers in the world come through our ranks -- Jordy Smith, Julian Wilson, Joel Parkinson, etc., and not one of them have failed a test ... ever. If you want to be the best surfer in the world than that's what you dedicate yourself too," told Aguerre to ESPN.com's Jake Howard. "If surfing wants to be seen as a professional sport, then it has to lose the stereotype, and the only way to do that is with transparency, and what better way than through WADA-certified tests?"
The women's tour surfers are also behind the new policy. Jessi Miley-Dyer, surfers' representative and newly appointed ASP Women's World Tour Manager, said, "As the sport of surfing continues to grow its audience every year, so grow the responsibilities of our athletes. The activation of the ASP's Anti-Doping Policy is a logical step in the organization's continued pursuit of professionalism and has the full support of the women."
ASP Men's Surfers' Representative and Top 34 competitor Kieren Perrow was instrumental in pushing the surfers case to the ASP Board.
"Everyone in the Top 34 is pretty much for the concept of drug testing," said Perrow about the new policy, "We want to be considered a professional sport and this brings us into line with a lot of other professional sports around the world. I think that surfing has come a long way in the past 15-20 years and there is a much more professional attitude, especially amongst the younger guys coming through. I don't think anyone of the top guys came out against it. It's not just about performance enhancing either, which in surfing I'd be surprised if there were many instances at all, but the list is going to test for an extremely wide range of substances including recreational drug use."
In actuality, Brazilian surfer, Neco Padaratz was suspended from the ASP World Tour in 2005 after testing positive for anabolic steroids in France in 2004. Padaratz claimed he was taking the steroids unknowingly to treat a chronic back injury.
A check of the ASP's new policy reveals the following substances to be considered as "Recreational Substances:"
The testing for any of the drugs on the WADA list will mainly be confined to 'In Competition Testing' and can take place at any event at any time or place, with or without advance notice. At this stage the ASP don't plan any 'Out-of-Competition Testing' except when a surfer is coming back to competition after retirement.
There have been concerns about the cost of the drug testing and who was going to pay for it? Figures as high as $1500, to as low as $100 per test has been thrown around.
Much of the push for ASP drug testing has come from the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association. SIMA leaders feel that it is a step toward legitimizing surfing in the scope of international athletics. By using the WADA code, surfing is also one step closer to being accepted to the Olympics.
"We have been speaking with the ASP and members of our organization for months to make sure we fully understand the issues around drug testing. It was only last week that the letter was agreed to by our board and sent to the ASP in time for their SF board meeting," said SIMA president, Doug Pallidini of Vans back in November, "Apparently, we were on the same page."
With the official announcement from the ASP that there is an Anti-Doping Policy in place it will be interesting to see how it's implemented. We won't have long as the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast contests kick off both the men and women's Tour on February 25th, the first contests under the new drug testing policy.