When watching a professional game of snooker, it’s easy to look at the players’ high level of performance and question whether or not they are taking performance enhancers (aka drugs).
With that in mind, are snooker players tested for drugs like in other sports?
Snooker players are tested for drugs and must abide by the Anti-Doping policy set by the World Professional Billiards And Snooker Association. Players are subject to random drugs tests and this includes performance-enhancing and recreational drugs.
In this article, I’ll explain why snooker players are tested for drugs, what the regulations are, and also what the most common performance-enhancing drug in snooker is!
Are Snooker Players Tested For Drugs?
There are strict drug policies set in place for professional snooker players. These are included in an Anti-Doping rules policy set by the World Professional Billiards And Snooker Association.
By becoming a professional snooker player, it is advised that players will have to abide by this policy and render themselves available for drug testing should it be requested.
Drug testing is regulated by the International Standard For Testing to certify that it’s done ethically and fairly.
Players are expected to know which substances are banned and to consult with medical professionals accordingly to guarantee they don’t accidentally take a banned substance, even if for innocent reasons.
Furthermore, snooker players can be subjected to drug testing when they’re in a competition, as well as when they are out of competition.
What Drugs Would Snooker Players Be Tested For?
There are some drugs that are banned for particular sports, and some that are banned for most or all sports. For snooker, the following drugs would cause a snooker player to fail a test:
- Hormone And Metabolic Modulators
- Anabolic Agents
- Peptide Hormones And Growth Factors
This is not an exhaustive list, and the list can be updated as more information is found about certain drugs.
Why Would A Snooker Player Be Tested For Drug Use?
As with most sports, the desire is that the playing field is even, giving everyone an opportunity to win. Drugs can artificially enhance a player’s ability. That being said, drug testing can be done for snooker players for a variety of reasons, and it can also be random.
Some of the things that could cause the World Professional Billiards And Snooker Association to want to test players are:
- Coming back to competition from retirement
- A sudden increase in performance and/or ability
- Any behavior that could indicate drug use
- A player’s past substance use
- Information provided to the WPBSA from a third party
What If The Substance Is Essential For The Player To Take?
Sometimes, there are certain ingredients that are in medicines that become banned in sports, and this is true for snooker as well.
This could make it difficult for a player to get the treatment they need if they aren’t allowed to take a certain medicine because of one ingredient.
There is a Therapeutic Use Exemption within the Anti-Doping Rules where if a player has an illness that requires them to take a certain medication on the prohibited list, they can attain the proper medical information and submit it to the World Anti-Doping Agency.
There is an application process in place that can be either approved or denied. There are certain illnesses that may be covered under the Therapeutic Use Exemption, including but not limited to:
- Neuropathic Pain
- Intrinsic Sleep Disorders
- Cardiovascular Conditions
- Musculoskeletal Conditions
Is Drug Use Common With Snooker Players?
While drug use in snooker may not be as rampant as in other sports, it definitely happens. Thus, snooker was one of the first sports that started implementing drug testing back in 1985.
There have been some well-known snooker players that have tested positive for substances since.
However, it’s not always the case that snooker players are using performance-enhancing drugs like in other sports. It tends to be recreational drugs or medicines with banned ingredients that are caught on tests..
For example, snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan lost his Irish Masters title in 1998 because he tested positive for cannabis.
Why Are Beta Blockers Banned In Snooker?
Beta-blockers, being a drug that treats certain medical conditions, weren’t always a prohibited substance in snooker. It wasn’t until the International Olympic Committee banned the drug that it was looked at by other sports committees. Snooker and billiards decided to ban the substance shortly after.
The reason beta-blockers could be used in snooker is that they slow down the heart rate and block the action of hormones like adrenaline. Why is this important?
This is important in snooker because of the concentration and pressure when making a long pot or getting out of a difficult snooker. Controlling adrenaline and heart rate is a skill that players need to master in order to play at the highest level.
If you can artificially minimize this, it will give you an unfair advantage over the competition and that is why beta-blockers could be abused in snooker, but also why they are on the banned substances list.
What If Players Make A Mistake?
Because players are expected to know which substances are banned in snooker, it isn’t considered a defense to claim that they didn’t know they were taking a banned substance.
Even if a player did not take the particular drug for the intended purpose of enhancing their performance, they can still be penalized for using it.
What If A Player Refuses A Drug Test?
If a snooker player does not submit to a drug test when it’s requested, it will be considered an offense under the Anti-Doping Rules requirements. If a player cannot provide a valid reason for missing a drug test, and they show a pattern of missing drug tests, they will be in violation of the rules.
Players can also be penalized if they are caught with a prohibited drug or are found to be trafficking the drug.
Snooker players are also required to advise the World Professional Billiards And Snooker Association of their whereabouts during the year, in the event that they are required to be tested. This ensures they can be tested wherever they are. If a player doesn’t abide by this requirement, they can also be penalized.
The level of concentration and skill that is needed in snooker is an elite level. Therefore, while physical attributes are not shown to give players an advantage, you can get mental and other types of performance-enhancing drugs that will make you better at snooker.
This creates an obvious unfair advantage and it’s for this reason that snooker players are tested for drugs. These drug tests can be both planned and at random and are carried out according to the Anti-Doping policy which is enforced by the WPBSA.
Any players caught to be in breach of these rules or that fail a drug test will be penalized and this will often come in the form of a ban, fine, or both.