New FIFA Anti-Doping Regulations For 2021

Following the approval of the new World Anti-Doping Authority Code (“WADA Code”) in November 2019, FIFA has revised the FIFA Anti-Doping Regulations (“FIFA ADR”) with the revised version due to come in to force on 1 January 2021.

FIFA is a signatory of the WADA Code and so is obliged to incorporate the new rules into its own regulations. FIFA has gone further, however, including “important updates in order to address the challenges in the fight against football doping worldwide”.Key changes are:

  1. Changes to the “In-Competition” Period - a player will now be considered to be “in-competition” from 23:59 on the day before a match in which the player is scheduled to participate through to the end of that match (including the sample collection process relating to the match). The result of this will be to create short periods within a tournament in which “out-of-competition” and “in-competition” periods alternate.
  1. Differentiations between types of players - the FIFA ADR introduces the concept of “protected persons” (players or other persons who are minors and/or who do not have any experience of international competitions) and “recreational players” (players who have not played at international or national level for the last five years). For both categories, they may benefit from lower sanctions for anti-doping rule violations.
  1. Anti-Doping Process - players or other persons confronted with a potential anti-doping rule violation shall be guaranteed the right to a fair hearing before an impartial and independent hearing panel. Where a national-level appeal body does not satisfy this criteria, the player or other person can appeal directly to CAS.
  1. Additional offences - failure by players, player support personnel or other persons to cooperate during FIFA's investigation of an anti-doping rule violation or offensive conduct towards FIFA Doping Control Officers during a doping control will be punished according to the FIFA Disciplinary Code.
  1. “Substance of abuse” policy - substances of abuse are prohibited substances that are abused in society outside the context of sport. Such substances will be identified by WADA on an annual basis. If a player is found to have taken such a substance, they will be banned from playing for three months. This time period can be shortened to one month if the player concerned undergoes a rehabilitation programme recognised by FIFA and can prove the “outside-of-sport” context.

It is a requirement of member associations of FIFA to adopt and comply with the FIFA ADR to ensure they apply its principles in their anti-doping procedures. It will be the responsibility of the member associations themselves to decide how to ensure compliance with the FIFA ADR and/or its principles. Generally that is done in one of two ways:

  • Adopting the FIFA ADR directly - the member association creates or adapts its own principles by adopting the regulations contained in FIFA ADR; or
  • Adopting the FIFA ADR by reference - the member association includes a provision in its statutes/relevant regulations which refers to FIFA ADR and confirms that in the event of conflict  between its regulations and FIFA, FIFA ADR should prevail.

Member associations will be required to inform FIFA by 30 November 2020 that its anti-doping regulations either directly adopts or references the FIFA ADR. To assist with this process, FIFA will hold a series of webinars with member associations to highlight key changes as well as providing practical examples. Freeths are regularly instructed by professional players, athletes and trainers to assist with a variety of doping-related issues. Freeths' Sports department are able to assist you with any queries you may have relating to this article or football regulations in general, please a member of the sports team.


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.