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On Side

41 EpisodesProduced by Tim Gavel, Ryan Micallef & Lyndall LarkhamWebsite

The official podcast of Sport Integrity Australia. Our mission is to protect the integrity of sport and the health and welfare of those who participate in Australian sport. This podcast examines the issues that affect sport, answers your questions and educates you about clean and fair sport.


Brenton Rickard: low level, maximum difficulty (ft. Dr Naomi Speers)

Australian swimmer Brenton Rickard’s world was turned upside down when a retest of a urine sample taken at the 2012 London Olympics returned a “low-level” positive result.

With his entire relay team set to be stripped of a bronze medal, Rickard talks to On Side about the difficulties in challenging the allegations eight years later - and at his own expense.

Rickard, who believes an over-the-counter pharmaceutical tablet contained the banned diuretic furosemide, says he felt “hopeless” trying to prove his innocence eight years after the event.

“It’s just an impossible task,” he says. “We could argue the legal case of how and what transpired, but the burden of proof is very much on the defendant to show the contamination and there’s just no way of doing it eight years after the fact.

“When you get notified and just the sheer disbelief, but then you realise the reality is that six people were facing losing an Olympic medal from something that wasn’t my fault.”

The case, and others like it happening at the same time, triggered a landmark change to the World Anti-Doping Agency rules relating to the threshold of banned substances, ultimately leading to the International Olympic Committee withdrawing the charges.

Rickard, who represented Australia in London 2012 and Beijing 2008, is now working with Sport Integrity Australia to help the agency better understand the impact inadvertent doping can have on an athlete’s wellbeing.

“As testing improves, as different processes are put in place to try to catch people who are deliberately cheating, you also need to adjust policies and rules to then not punish innocent people for things outside of their control,” he says.

In this episode we also discuss the science behind low-level detections and why athlete samples are stored and re-tested with Sport Integrity Australia’s Chief Science Officer Dr Naomi Speers.

Dr Speers says the ability to store samples and analyse them is an important part of the anti-doping program.

“It has a really significant deterrence effect,” she says. “Science and technology is constantly advancing and this means we can use the advances of technology in science in the last 10 years and apply them to samples from the past. So that means doping athletes are not only against the science and technology now, but the science and technology of the future.”

Dr Speers also discusses inadvertent doping from pharmaceuticals, the dangers of supplements, the recent WADA rule changes and the major changes to the Prohibited List that will come into effect on 1 January 2022.

Finally, in our segment From Left Field, our athlete educator Annabelle Cleary answers the question “Do you have a case to plea if you tested positive to batch tested supplements?”

See for privacy information.

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