Doping violations: CMAS penalises Croatian freedivers

The CMAS ‘Fair Play’ campaign
The CMAS ‘Fair Play’ campaign

CMAS, one of freediving’s two world governing bodies, has imposed fines and suspensions on Croatian freedivers Petar Klovar and Vitomir Maričić, following the allegations that they arrived in the Bahamas for last July’s Vertical Blue competition in possession of performance-enhancing drugs.

CMAS’s disciplinary committee found the two divers guilty of breaching its code of ethics, on the grounds that the substances in their luggage were capable both of altering the outcome of the competition and of harming their own health. 

Each man was fined 5,000 euros (£4,265) and given a six-month suspension from competitions dated from 27 November, so Maricic and Klovar will be allowed to participate in CMAS events again from late May. 

Vertical Blue competitors are required to sign a no-doping agreement before registration, and competition organisers were involved in the search of the freedivers’ luggage when they arrived. 

After discovering the drugs and despite the men’s denials of guilt, Vertical Blue imposed an immediate ban on their participation at the annual depth competition, as reported on Divernet. The divers were also suspended by CMAS pending an investigation.

The competition organiser, William Trubridge’s freediving school, also referred the matter to the disciplinary committee of freediving’s other world governing body AIDA.

Peter Klovar was accused of doping violations
Petar Klovar
Vitomir Maričić
Vitomir Maričić

However, both freedivers went on to compete at the AIDA Depth World Championship in Cyprus in September, with Klovar setting a new AIDA world record in Free Immersion and Maričić, a national champion, coming second in the same discipline.

This led to a rift between CMAS and AIDA, with the former announcing that “we were the only ones to take immediate action” over the drugs and saying that the appearance of the freedivers in Cyprus appeared to be “far from the CMAS standards”. It further announced its resolution to “discontinue further co-operation with AIDA”, as reported on Divernet in October. 

’Cheating in underwater sports’

“CMAS is tirelessly committed to the fight against any form of cheating in underwater sports and will spare no effort to maintain the state of health of athletes at any level and fairness in competitions,” the federation stated when announcing the penalties it was imposing on the Croatians on 27 January. Its “Fair Play” campaign is described as a move to promote clean and safe sports governance in freediving.

Although not yet included in the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of proscribed substances in all sports, use or possession “in or out of competition” of the drugs said to have been found on the Croatians – sildenafil (Viagra) and benzodiazepines – has been prohibited by CMAS in the underwater sports it governs.

It says it is “in the process of completing the testing-procedure rules to be effective and applicable as of the upcoming 2024 international sport season”.

Some freedivers commented on CMAS social media that the penalties imposed on the men seemed too lenient to act as a deterrent to others, and that the six-month suspension period covered mainly the winter training period – although it will include the new CMAS Freediving World Cup, which is due to be held in the Philippines in mid-May.

Also on Divernet: Doping controversy sparks freediving rift, 3 world + UK freedive records set in Cyprus, Top Croatian freedivers banned for doping violations, Finless freediver sets absolute world record

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