Is doping in sport a crime? (doping in sports pt. 5)

Parliament house flag post

Is doping in sport a crime? (doping in sports pt. 5)

Posted 24/04/2013 by Jaan Murphy

The previous FlagPost in this series explored the dual use of evidence in both sports tribunals and criminal proceedings.

Whilst it is commonly understood that doping is prohibited in sport, is it also a criminal offence?

This FlagPost examines the circumstances in which an Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV) is also a crime in Australia and the sanctions imposed by the criminal justice system for those offences. 

The Criminal Justice System

Unlike a number of other countries, Australia does not have any sports-specific legislation creating criminal offences specifically relating to doping in sport. However, the Commonwealth, states and territories have all enacted legislation which criminalises certain actions or conduct which also constitute an ADRV. Primarily these are centred on:
  • trafficking of substances that appear on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) World Anti-Doping Code Prohibited List (List)
  • the use or administration of a substance on the List without appropriate medical or therapeutic justification
  • the possession of a substance on the List without lawful justification (e.g. for medical reasons) or
  • aiding, abetting, or concealing any of the above.

Selected examples of applicable Australian criminal laws

In Australia, the criminal laws that potentially cover conduct associated with an ADRV commonly relate to trafficking, possession and importation of substances that appear on the List.  

Trafficking, possession and importation offences

By way of example, Part 9.1 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 criminalises both the trafficking and possession of certain prohibited substances, a small number of which are on the List. Depending on the amount of the substance trafficked or possessed, the offence is punishable by up to life imprisonment and a fine of up to 7,500 penalty units ($1,275,000). 
Under Part XIII of the Customs Act 1901, Regulation 5 and Schedule 7A of Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956, the importation of a number of substances on the List (including EPO and Human Growth Hormone) is a criminal offence punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to 1,000 penalty units ($170,000).

Therapeutic goods offences

The Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (TG Act) creates a number of offences relating to therapeutic goods, many of which are on the List. For example, the importation of therapeutic goods into Australia without the appropriate permit is a criminal offence punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to 4,000 penalty units ($680,000). A large number of the prohibited substances on the List are classified as therapeutic goods under the TG Act.   

State and territory laws

The Commonwealth is not the only jurisdiction to criminalise the possession or trafficking of substances and methods on the List. As an example, the table below highlights the relevant penalties for the possession, use, administration or trafficking of steroids and similar substances. 


Relevant Act



Criminalises the possession, trafficking, use and administration of steroids. Schedule 1 lists a large number of Anabolic Steroids, most of which appear on the List.
Imprisonment for 5 years and/or a fine of up to 500 penalty units ($55,000)
Criminalises the possession and trafficking of steroids.  Links key definitions to the TG Act.
Imprisonment for 2 years and/or a fine of up to 20 penalty units ($2,200)
Criminalises the possession and trafficking of steroids.  Links key definitions to the Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987 which includes “any other anabolic and androgenic steroidal agent”.
Imprisonment for 20 years for trafficking and possession.
Criminalises the possession and trafficking of steroids.  Schedule 11 includes a large number of steroids, many of which are on the List.
For trafficking:  imprisonment for 15 years.  For possession: 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 400 penalty units ($56,336)
Criminalises the trafficking, possession and use of steroids.  Links key definitions to the Uniform Poisons Standard which includes steroids, and incorporates an extensive list of substances, many of which are on the List.
For trafficking: imprisonment for up to 10 years and/or a fine of $50,000.  For possession, administration or supply: 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $2,000.
Criminalises the trafficking, possession and use of steroids.  Links key definitions to the Uniform Poisons Standard which includes steroids, and incorporates an extensive list of substances, many of which are on the List.
For trafficking: imprisonment for up to 25 years and/or a fine of $100,000.  For possession: 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $2,000
Criminalises the trafficking, possession and use of steroids.  Links key definitions to the Uniform Poisons Standard which includes steroids, and incorporates an extensive list of substances, many of which are on the List.
For trafficking and possession: imprisonment for 5 years and/or a fine of 500 penalty units ($70,500).
For use: imprisonment for 2 years and/or a fine of 500 penalty units ($70,500).
Criminalises the trafficking, possession, use and administration of steroids.
For trafficking: imprisonment for 21 years.  For possession, use or administration: 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine of 50 penalty units ($6,500).

Other criminal sanctions

It has also been suggested by some commentators that as a professional athlete’s ability to earn a living is based on their physical or athletic ability, the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDS) may be regarded as a dishonest act. The offence of fraud is commonly defined in various Commonwealth and state and territory laws as where a person a financial advantage, property, services, a benefit, or an advantage, dishonestly or by deceit. Hence it is argued that the use of PEDS by an athlete to secure a scholarship, contract or other benefit could be prosecuted as fraud, attracting terms of imprisonment.

Finally, it has been noted that athletes and teams engaged in the use of prohibited substances have an unfair advantage, which can be exploited on sports betting markets by persons with inside information. A previous FlagPost explored the issues surrounding betting, match fixing and corruption in sport. The next FlagPost in this series looks at countries that have criminalised doping in sport.


Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.

Add your comment

[Click to expand]

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




asylum refugees immigration climate change Parliament elections Australian foreign policy social security health financing women Australian Defence Force taxation welfare policy welfare reform sport Medicare employment illicit drugs gambling Australian Bureau of Statistics higher education disability statistics private health insurance Middle East Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency health reform emissions trading industrial relations united states Carbon Pricing Mechanism United Nations school education steroids WADA federal budget 43rd Parliament politics labour force Australian Federal Police transport indigenous Australians aid detention criminal law child protection ASADA Afghanistan governance international relations poker machines law enforcement people trafficking Fair Work Act Australian Public Service pharmaceutical benefits scheme International Women's Day Australian Crime Commission parliamentary procedure National Disability Insurance Scheme children's health food OECD debt defence capability federal election 2013 Australian Electoral Commission aged care Asia Australia in the Asian Century environment Senate income management pensions planning skilled migration Papua New Guinea multiculturalism people smuggling social media doping HECS Higher Education Loan Program paid parental leave health High Court corruption federal state relations dental health New Zealand terrorist groups ALP election results constitution UK Parliament public service reform forced labour aviation coal seam gas crime customs ADRV Census Newstart Parenting Payment employee employer Federal Court foreign debt gross debt net debt European Union domestic violence firearms Constitutional reform food labelling Australian economy carbon tax banking political parties public policy terrorism welfare Australian Security Intelligence Organisation intelligence community Drugs research and development voting mental health health system human rights Northern Territory Emergency Response science Electoral reform regional unemployment violence against women accountability China military history Indigenous Indonesia Pacific Islands speaker health risks superannuation middle class welfare welfare systems question time animal health Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry trade unions integrity same sex relationships foreign bribery Australian Secret Intelligence Service export liquefied natural gas local government referendum children mining forestry Tasmania financial sector Canada United Nations Security Council climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leadership expertise Senators and Members family assistance by-election US economy housing affordability ASIO carbon markets new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC reserved seats regulation Parliamentary remuneration Population Hung Parliament federal budget 2011-12 paternalism public health slavery Trafficking in Persons Report homelessness school chaplains ministries water federal election 2010 Medicare Locals primary care regional students Youth Allowance entitlements salary sea farers productivity Special Rapporteur transparency money laundering early childhood education national security sexual abuse bulk billing disability employment World Trade Organization Australia renewable energy US politics terrorist financing language education royal commission Italy roads international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies standard of proof arts World Health Organisation disciplinary tribunals railways infant mortality honorary citizen suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports contracts workplace policies peace keeping disorderly conduct same-sex marriage Parliament House retirement Rent Assistance constitutional recognition of local government anti-dumping national heritage NHMRC nutrition GDP world heritage submarines Somalia United Kingdom defence budget First speech election timetable sitting days prime ministers standing orders public housing cancer gene patents genetic testing universities Ireland public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission vocational education and training limitation period Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping leave loading political engagement Korean peninsula counselling pests suicide social policy alcohol computer games plebiscites therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration federalism federation preselection Iran sanctions baby bonus early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin citizen engagement policymaking biosecurity hendra environmental law COAG Ministerial Councils nuclear Work Choices republic hospitals qantas ANZUS Norway President Barack Obama Presidential visits advertising electricity energy maritime floods ADHD stimulant medication ABS Trade Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings 44th Parliament 2015 e-voting internet voting nsw state elections Indigenous health procurement child care funding refugees immigration asylum ACT Assembly Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors social services EU fishing asylum refugees immigration political finance donations Antarctica Diplomacy Disability Support Pension by-elections state and territories China soft power education Fiji India fuel Scottish referendum Members of Parliament Middle East; national security; terrorism Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy innovation Bills NATO workers anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform standards copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry Governor-General Animal law; food health policy employment law bullying asylum seekers Economics efficiency foreign aid human rights; Racial Discrimination Act smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Work Health and Safety Asia; Japan; international relations youth Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine political financing Australia Greens Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling Stronger futures rural and regional political parties preselection presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act Australian Greens obesity competition policy US presidential election evidence law sacrament of confession international days codes of conduct consumer laws

Show all
Show less
Back to top