Kolo Toure: What happens next?
The Manchester City defender Kolo Toure faces a ban of up to two years following his suspension from playing yesterday after testing positive for a banned substance. Here are the key questions facing the 29-year-old defender.
Q: Is there ever an excuse for failing a drugs test?
The principle of strict liability underpins the whole of doping policy. What it means in practical terms is that you, the athlete, are responsible for what's in your body regardless of how it got there.
There are mitigating circumstances, but the burden of proof rests on the athlete. In other words, Toure will have to satisfactorily explain how a prohibited substance was found in his sample. Some examples could be proof that drink or food was maliciously spiked by a fellow competitor, or proof the substance was forcibly injected by a third party.
The reason that strict liability is used is to prevent reliance on the obvious excuse of "I didn't know it was in the tablet I took," or "I didn't know what I was taking".
It's a similar to the caveat "ignorance of the law is no defence." It's a tough stance, but it has to be to protect the clean athletes.
Toure faces a battle to clear his name. Photo: AP
Q: Manchester City say the substance found in Kolo Toure's sample was on the "specified list". What does that mean?
It's regularly updated, and always under review. New drugs are being found all the time, and understanding of what effect they can have changes. Some categories of drug are a total no-no like steroids, and their use is banned at all times. Others are only banned during competition, and that includes the category of stimulants.
The stimulant section is divided into two, "non-specified" and "specified". The non- specified include things like amphetamines, which could clearly be performance enhancing.
Specified stimulants, for example ephedrine, fall into a rather more grey area. Ephedrine is found in a lot of cough and cold remedies, and an athlete might be able to argue that its use was not intended to be performance enhancing.
To reflect the fact that there may be an explanation for the presence of these substances which could have a more innocent foundation, the punishments vary from a warning to a two year suspension from any given sport.
In a recent case involving the Hamilton Academical player, Simon Mensing - who tested positive for a substance on the specified list - UK Anti-Doping accepted that the substance had been taken inadvertently in a dietary supplement and that Mensing had taken steps to check whether the supplement contained any prohibited substance.
Despite those checks and balances, he still committed an anti-doping violation, but his punishment was only a four week ban.
Q: What happens now to Kolo Toure?
When a urine test is taken, it's split into two: an 'A' sample and a 'B' sample.
The 'A' sample is tested and the 'B' sample is stored for cross referencing. Toure can now ask for the 'B' sample to be tested to see if it comes up with the same adverse finding as the 'A' sample, or if it contradicts it. It's very rare for the 'B' sample not to match the 'A'.
Assuming they do match, there's then a process to be followed which will establish if there's a case to answer, then to set a time for a full hearing to take place where the facts and any mitigation can be discussed.
After the hearing, any sanction will be announced. Toure has the right to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. WADA can also appeal if they feel the case has not been handled properly, or if the punishment isn't appropriate.