Five years of cooperation with billiards.

Interview with Dr. Michał Rynkowski by Maciej Urban.


Michal Rynkowski – PhD in legal science; CEO of Polish Anti-Doping Agency since 2017,

Head of Anti-Doping Independent Observer Team Commonwealth Games Birmingham 2022,

Head of Anti-Doping Program during European Games Cracow-Malopolska 2023,

Chairman of Advisory Group on Compliance of Council of Europe Anti-Doping Monitoring

Group since 2023

What does the Polish Anti-Doping Agency do?

Above all, POLADA is the creator of the anti-doping policy in Poland, it is responsible for the implementation of all programs related to anti-doping control, educational and investigative activities. The agency’s task is also to cooperate nationally with bodies such as the police, military police, and prosecutor’s offices. It is also international cooperation with the World Anti-Doping Agency, the European Council, or even the World Confederation of Billiards Sports (WCBS).

Cooperation with WCBS. How can you evaluate this cooperation? It would seem that this is not a discipline particularly exposed to such violations.

 It is true that billiard sports are assessed by us as low risk. This translates into a smaller number of tests in comparison with high-risk disciplines, such as combat sports, strength or endurance sports, i.e. classic sports based on high physical activity. However, in billiards, doping sometimes occurs. It has a direct impact on sports results. These may be, for example, beta-blockers, the use of which has a very positive effect on the player’s performance. This means that ones actions take place in an atmosphere of peace, so one can hit more precisely and is not stressed. These substances lower blood pressure and optimize the game.

We have been cooperating with WCBS since 2019. It evolved because at the beginning we only acted within the framework of disciplinary proceedings. There was a need for the federation to seek support at the international level and the Polish Anti-Doping Agency was chosen. This happened because we were one of the first to establish a disciplinary panel, something like an anti-doping court that operates under the Act on Combating Doping in Sport. It is a professional and independent body. WCBS, as an organization with a rather limited scope of operation and capabilities at that time, was looking for a reliable partner.

How much work do you actually have in billiard sports?

Not counting national controls, we have about 10 anti-doping controls a year. In addition, WCBS conducts its own inspections at the most important tournaments, i.e. approximately 30 tests per year. These are not big numbers. It is worth noting here that at the beginning of our cooperation, there were several positive results in which prohibited substances were detected. In total, we cooperated with WCBS in examining five doping cases, which resulted in convicting the players. Each case was, of course, a little different. We had a player from Iran, a player from the United States, there was a player from Croatia… One case concerned violating the conditions of serving a sentence.

We consider each case separately, and we do not assume in advance that a given athlete has knowingly or unknowingly committed an anti-doping rule violation. It happens that a substance was taken accidentally, for example by taking it as part of a medicine or dietary supplement where it was not included in the label. Ignorance will not mean that such a person will be acquitted. It is the responsibility of every athlete to make every effort to ensure that the substance does not enter the body. We may be dealing with a personal tragedy, but the anti-doping rules are the same for everyone.

Currently, POLADA cooperates with WCBS to a much wider extent than at the beginning, because in addition to the above-mentioned proceedings, we also cooperate in the field of educational activities, support WCBS in the field of inspections, but also in the extensive WADA Compliance Program, or the compliance of the WCBS program with World Anti-Doping Agency. Our support in this area consists in developing appropriate documents taking into account contemporary trends in anti-doping. This must be done so that the WCBS program is at the highest possible level and is consistent with the latest guidelines.

What is the WADA Compliance Program?

This is the adaptation of WCBS regulations to WADA standards, which took about 2 years. Here, the role of Mr. Marcin Krzemiński is crucial. It is our main partner from WCBS in the preparation and implementation of specific programs. It will be of a development nature. I think this partnership, which has been developed over the years, serves both parties. A classic win-win situation and I assume this will continue. As a partner of WCBS, we see more and more efforts being made, more and more funds are being allocated to the fight against doping, and emphasis is placed on educational activities, which is very important because well-educated athletes will make conscious choices, not dividing them into good and bad. In such a situation, if someone uses prohibited substances, we can assume that they are probably doing it on purpose. Through education, we eliminate cases of unconscious use of prohibited substances.

And you can see the consequences. Cases of doping in this sport are not common, and if they did occur, all cases were won. Is this a rule regardless of the discipline?

No. There are cases of players being acquitted, but I wouldn’t treat it as a win or a loss. What is simply most important is that an athlete accused of doping has the opportunity to use a professional and independent disciplinary body that will objectively look at ones case and then assign a punishment appropriate to the guilt. This is the most important thing. If a player is acquitted, one deserved it, justice is served.

What does the entire “application – accused – Disciplinary Panel” process look like?

 A classic situation when we detect a prohibited substance in a sample taken from an athlete during anti-doping control at a tournament. The waiting time for the results is about 20 days, we receive the result, it is positive in our jargon, so a prohibited substance has been found, we notify the athlete about it, informing him about the possibility of analysing the B sample, based on which we verify the correctness of the A sample test. In 99 percent of cases, they are consistent, although there have been cases in history where the result was different or inconclusive, resulting in acquittal at an early stage of the proceedings. If this is not the case, after completing this process, we move on to the proper phase of the proceedings, i.e., we file charges, and the case is transferred to the disciplinary body.

WCBS, having no money, established the WCBS Solidarity Anti-Doping Fund. How do you evaluate this initiative and do other organizations also have such ideas?

This is a rare situation where the federation works so actively for the purity of sport, for example by seeking financial resources for such purposes. This is usually done at your own expense, but in the case of WCBS, additional funds were obtained, which in my opinion are completely sufficient for the federation to implement its anti-doping policy. This is definitely a big step forward and a good example for others.

Anti-doping control representatives are increasingly visible during billiard sports events, which has a positive impact on the importance of the event. Do you agree?

We feel needed and welcome. This definitely makes the work of anti-doping controllers easier. In favourable conditions, they can easily carry out their tasks, which is not so obvious, because there have been unpleasant situations that did not concern billiard sports. These are just incidents that are exceptions to the rule. Generally, if we have good cooperation, for example between judges, officials and controllers, it definitely has a positive impact on the entire process, also in the minds of the players who are exposed to stress. This is extremely important.

Warsaw, June 2024.