In August, Sports Shorts wrote about the updated 2017 CrossFit Games drugs policy (the “Policy”).

In the final paragraph, we noted that it was hoped that the low level of breaches would continue and that the Policy would only truly be tested in the event a ‘big name’ athlete was found to have breached it.

Fast-forward two months and, unfortunately, the Policy has indeed found its first ‘big name’ casualty as a result of the failed drugs test by Australian, Ricky Garard, who was crowned the “Third Fittest on Earth” in the men’s open category at the 2017 CrossFit Games.

When assessing the Policy, Sports Shorts noted the need for any decision and appeal made, to be properly communicated and publicised for all to see.

In an open and revealing interview, Justin Bergh, General Manager of the CrossFit Games, discussed at some length the process followed and the grounds of Garard’s appeal.

Bergh confirmed that Garard was selected for testing as a result of finishing on the podium at the CrossFit Games. He failed that test and was notified in accordance with the Policy. Garard used the 10 day period to prepare and submit his appeal, which according to Bergh was made on two grounds:

  1. the result of his A sample test was incorrect; and
  2. alternatively, he had mistakenly taken supplements containing banned substances.

Bergh explained that in light of the first ground Garard’s B sample was also tested which also came back positive for banned substances. With respect of the second ground this was a strict liability offence, with athletes being solely responsible for anything in their bodies when they are tested.

As a result of his violation of the Policy, Garard has been banned from competing in CrossFit sanctioned events until 2022 and must return the $76,000 prize money won.

At the same time as announcing Garard’s disqualification, CrossFit also communicated its decision to disqualify two other games competitors, Josée Sarda and Tony Turski who finished first and second in their respective masters divisions.

Whilst the above will inevitably be seen by some as evidence of CrossFit having a drugs problem, Bergh was quick to point out that it had tested all athletes who had finished on the podium and that the CrossFit Games had always communicated its decisions in respect of violations of the Policy and that no one individual is bigger than the sport.

He also confirmed that the CrossFit Games continued to review its policies and further amendments were inevitable. Sports Shorts would suggest these should include at least the mandatory testing of all athletes competing at the CrossFit Games and the publication of written reasons for decisions taken in respect of violations of the Policy.

In the meantime, it is hoped that the openness with which the CrossFit Games has dealt with the issue of perfomance enhancing drugs will continue.