Drug testing is an essential component of any sport and now more so than ever. Pharmaceuticals have come a long way and while we are not quite at a level performance-enhancing drugs make us ‘limitless’, the advantage they provide in professional sport is unquestionable.
Now I know there are many people that will question whether or not darts is even a sport but you only need to see the averages and playing standard of the modern game to know that these players excel when it comes to hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and focus/concentration.
With the prize money and sponsorship at an all-time high, there is definitely an incentive for players to find an edge which raises the question, are darts players drug tested?
Darts players are drug tested and this became mandatory in 2006. The drug testing guidelines are set by the World Anti-Doping Agency as a standard across sports and are adopted and enforced by the World Darts Federation, the Darts Regulations Authority, and affiliated partners like the PDC.
In this article, I’ll cover what the drug testing procedures and regulations are for dart players, how seriously it’s taken, and some of the finer details darts players need to keep in mind (like whether any prescription medication could lead to a ban…).
Are Darts Players Drug Tested
Drug testing in darts became mandatory in 2006. While darts have come a long way since the days when players could be seen smoking and drinking alcohol on stage during a game, there is still a long way to go before darts can be considered a serious sport and the introduction of drug testing was definitely a step in the right direction.
While there is some skepticism as to whether or not you can consider dart players to be athletes, the standard they play at in the modern game with the prize money being offered makes it an essential requirement for dart players to be drug tested.
Now that we have established that drug testing IS carried out on dart players, we can explore some of the rules around it.
This is a topic high up on the list when it comes to policies and regulations in the world of Darts.
The ‘World Anti-Doping Code’, published by the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), was updated just this year, in January 2021.
UKAD is a national body that offers support and protection to athletes, including dart players – they are generally considered the most complete and up to date source for doping information and changes worldwide.
They list eleven ‘Anti-Doping Rule Violations.’
Here are six to get you started:
- Possession of drugs
- Using or having attempted use
- Refusing to take a test
- Encouraged by other players not to inform the authorities of use
- Administration of drugs
UKAD provides advice on different ways a player can take care not to break the rules. The Darts Regulations Authority (DRA) has an anti-doping policy, which stipulates that a drug test can be randomly administered to a player without warning. According to the DRA, this policy is for players ‘competing in events organized by associations affiliated to the DRA.’
The DRA have rules published to benefit dart players; they are not out to get them. They want to protect the sport, ‘ensuring good governance and integrity within the sport of darts” in their own words.
However, there must be some boundaries and rules in any game. They have the authority to proceed with disciplinary action and financial penalties could be applied if the rules are broken. Players need to, and should, take the rules seriously.
If you were competing in a game, you’d want to know that everyone was following the rules, right? You want fair play. On the other hand, you also want the sport you are proud of to be managed well and safe for all those involved, to benefit the players.
Failure in Drug Tests
Any failure in drug tests will bring about an investigation, which is likely to result in a disciplinary hearing. Disciplinary cases are recorded on the DRA website.
According to UKAD, if prohibited substances are found to be administered, the player will be suspended. The number of years varies according to each case but can range from a one-year suspension to four years. In some cases, there will be complete suspension which is understandably devastating!
You may have heard of the first dart player to fail a drug test, Robbie Green. When the new drug testing policy was put in place, he was banned from the sport for eight weeks.
Method of Drug Testing in Darts
Players can be tested at least once a year, in-competition, during events, or out-of-competition.
A player opposing a test could incur a ban of up to four years.
The World Dart Federation (WDF) selects tournament players at random for testing.
Event players are selected randomly for testing, although with a lower frequency than in competition tournament players.
Players are tested randomly through the year – yes, at any time of the year. Professional dart players can have four to five drug tests in one year.
Not only does drug testing make sure players are not cheating but testing also shows that the sport is taken seriously and professionally. Some professional dart players welcome drug testing, even to the extent of random checks in their own home!
The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) presents the DRA statement, which informs that drug testing is carried out by obtaining a urine sample from a player. The urine is separated into two samples. If the first sample tests positive, the approved laboratory will proceed with testing the second sample.
The DRA will be notified of positive results detected in the player’s urine if both samples test positive for prohibited drugs.
Interestingly, players are not tested for alcohol consumption. This is not on the list of banned drugs in darts.
Prescription Drugs and Supplements
To support players and ensure they protect themselves from drugs that are not prohibited they can use the global DRO website. This will identify the ingredients within a drug and state if it is prohibited both in-competition and out of the competition.
The DRO website will allow you to easily search for the different ingredients in a drug.
Not only are prescription drugs to be taken with caution, but supplements are also considered a risk, with a potential violation. Supplements? I hear you! Who would have thought, but they can contain ingredients that are prohibited.
Supplements can be a real problem area because of lack of research about the products, resulting in players failing tests. This can be detrimental to the player and could result in a complete ban over a mistake.
The World Anti Doping Agency and its code, stress the importance of players taking responsibility for their research.
Dart players will be accountable if they do not take responsibility to follow the guidelines and policies, so it is advised that they seek further advice from the DRA and how this could impact their game.
Drugs that are Banned in Darts
This is the most recent list of banned drugs, most recently updated by WADA in January 2021. You will see below that there is quite an extensive, mandatory list of banned drugs.
– Anabolic agents- Beta-2 agonists- Beta-blockers- Cannabinoids- Diuretics and masking agents- Glucocorticoids- Hormone and metabolic modulators- Narcotics- Non-approved substances- Peptide hormones, growth factors, related substances, and mimetics- Prohibited methods- Stimulants
Drug testing has a positive impact on the sport of darts and keeps the game fair for everyone.
There is a lot of support out there for players to ensure safe and professional participation during play – just make sure that you do your research (and consult a doctor) before taking any new medications or supplements. You want to make sure that they’re pure and don’t contain any ingredients that show up on the ban list and you should be good to go.
It can be easy to look at the game of darts and wonder “are darts players drug tested?”. The elite level of focus over extended periods of time and relentless precision and consistency of throw that the top players have is a far cry from a time when darts was simply considered a ‘pub game’.
As a result of the elite level of performance, growing popularity in the Western world, and increasing prize money on offer to the top players, darts is now a sport that is drug tested just like any other. There have been a few players who have received disciplinary action in recent years over drug testing failures and this is just another step forward for darts in general.