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Doping and Governance in Sports: Problems, Questions and Solutions


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This paper reviews what is known about the nature, extent and effects of doping in sports in recent years. It places the issue in the context of sports and politics and considers current issues in the fight against doping in sports, concluding with thoughts on what needs to be done to address these problem that are more complex than most of us think. ______________________________________________________________________
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Doping and Governance in Sports: Problems, Questions and Solutions
Hildrun J Passas and Nikos Passas
Medfield, MA, USA and Northeastern University Boston, USA
In press in
This paper reviews what is known about the nature, extent and effects of doping in sports in
recent years. It places the issue in the context of sports and politics and considers current issues
in the fight against doping in sports, concluding with thoughts on what needs to be done to
address these problem that are more complex than most of us think.
1 - Background: Nature, extent and effects of doping in competitive sports.
Sport plays a central role in contemporary society at the local, regional and international level.
Inevitably, it features in numerous ongoing debates revolving around money, culture, gender,
race, justice, politics, inequalities, and globalization. Some of these debates have focused on
significant corruption and malpractices revealed to the wider public causing scandals and
turmoil.1 Doping, the focus of this article, is one of the most important sports-related
Efforts to enhance athletic performance are as old as sport itself, have been frequent, diverse and
widespread, while they have not always been seen as illegitimate. Today, there is a broad
consensus against doping in sports, but a universally accepted definition of doping is elusive.
Sometimes, doping refers to a violation of the Spirit of Sport, claiming to aim to prevent un-
natural influences and to level the playing field. Given that most definitions are unsatisfactory,
the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) defines doping as the use of one or more of the
substances or methods listed in its annually updated “Prohibited List”.2
For the signatory countries of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC)3, WADA sets out the rules
for advancing and harmonizing the anti-doping effort in sports with the purpose
•To protect the athletes’ fundamental right to participate in doping-free sport and thus promote
health, fairness and equality for athletes worldwide, and
•To ensure harmonized, coordinated and effective anti-doping programs at the international and
national level with regard to detection, deterrence and prevention of doping.
What then, is the historical and political context of the control of doping in sport? What are the
current challenges and issues, and what are possible ways forward?
History and extent
The use of supplements to improve performance has been part of sports since ancient Greek and
Roman times. Since the dawn of athletic competition during the original Olympic Games in
Ancient Greece, athletes, as well as their coaches and trainers, have been finding innovative
ways to gain an edge on their competition. In modern times, doping - the use of performance-
enhancing drugs or practices - has been one method that athletes and their trainers have used to
beat their competition. Some of those performance-enhancement methods have been within the
accepted rules, while other methods skirt the gray area between being in compliance and non-
compliance, while still other methods clearly break the established rules and endanger the health
of the athletes. The history of sports doping during the modern era can be traced through
publicized events and scandals that marked the different time periods. From the use of
amphetamines and other stimulants in the early 20th century, to the use of testosterone and
steroids by both the USSR and the United States during Cold War-era Olympics games, to blood
doping and EPO4, to designer drugs, the history of doping in sports closely follows the medical
and technological advances of our times. In the early 21st century, the possibility of genetically
engineered athletes looms.
At the time when modern Olympics started, the use of performance-enhancing drugs, even as
strong as heroine and strychnine, was not considered illicit but rather as antidote to the fatigue of
top-performing athletes5. Nowadays, the most common performance enhancing drugs by far are
anabolic androgenic steroids. They were first developed in the 1930s in the form of an artificial
testosterone to treat hormone deficiencies. By the 1950s they were also used by athletes and
helped Soviet athletes excel in the 1956 Olympics, prompting the American coaches to introduce
them to their teams. By the 1980s anabolic steroids were also used by white, male, non-Olympic
athletes in the USA.6 Since then, many countries have qualified anabolic steroids as controlled
substance, regulating the manufacture and distribution of these drugs. Yet, in 2007, the
international illegal market in anabolic steroids alone approached $1billion.7
The chart below shows the prevalence of different substances detected in testing reported to
WADA. This does not necessarily reflect the prevalence of the substances actually used but what
has been officially detected.8 The true extent and specific types of drug-enhanced performance
practices can only be guessed.
4 See
5 See book review summarizing points in Thomas M. Hunt, Drug Games: The International
Olympic Committee and the Politics of Doping, 1960-2008 (Austin, TX: University of Texas
Press, 2011).
6 See, “Estimated prevalence of anabolic
steroid use among male high school seniors.” Buckley WE, Yesalis CE 3rd, Friedl KE, Anderson
WA, Streit AL, Wright JE, JAMA. 1988 Dec 16; 260(23):3441-5.
8 See
While broad-based recreational sports carries health, emotional and social advantages for the
vast majority of people, competitive sports can be viewed as a business, entertainment, vehicle of
national pride and values, marketing platform, a means to attain power, glory and convey genetic
superiority, and an arena to test the limits of what the human body can perform.
As Paoli and Donati note, the growing demand for illicit drugs by athletes can be explained by
1. The “de-amateurization” of sports, with an increasing emphasis on winning.
2. The medicalization of sports, exemplified by the growth of “sports medicine”.
3. The politicization of sports—during the Cold War, sports became an extension of the
East-West rivalry, but it is now a proxy of national pride
4. Commercialization (sports sponsorship and franchising, ads, gambling, with global
audiences, an industry estimated to be a US$800 billion a year business.9)
Pervasive doping among elite athletes
The prevalence of intentional doping among elite athletes is difficult to establish because it
varies greatly by sport, country, definition of doping, and method of assessment.10 According to
WADA reports, the world average of positive official tests is about 1-2% (Adverse Analytical
Findings and Atypical Findings).11 This clearly underestimates the use of performance enhancing
drugs. At least 7% of elite athletes admit to having used doping. The extent of intentional doping
in adult elite athletes is estimated to be between 14- 45%, which has led to some controversy
between researchers and the IAAF.12
Effects of Performance enhancing drugs
Just as there are hundreds of different drugs and methods, there are an equal number of effects of
these drugs, which cannot all be listed exhaustively here. Suffice it to say that overuse and use
without proper medical supervision can be harmful to the athlete, and has affected thousands of
9 Paoli and Donati, The Sports Doping Market; Understanding Supply and Demand, and the
Challenges of their Control, 2014, Springer. New York.
12 From Paoli and Donati, 2014. This is based on the analysis of 7,289 blood samples from 2,737
athletes from all disciplines and countries. Weightlifting and power sports report 20-50%,
endurance sports are also high %: Cycling, swimming, running, the Tour de France 1998, Festina
scandal investigation revealed systematic doping). “According to some sports physicians, the
real rate of elite athletes engaging in doping may be as high as 40–60 %” (Simon, 2010).,,
lives adversely, including death. USADA’s website gives a concise overview of the most
common side effects of performance enhancing drugs.13
As an example, the side effects of the most commonly used category of drugs, anabolic
androgenic steroids, is illustrated below.
Figure 1: Health effects of using anabolic steroids14
History of control: Towards international standards
The de-amateurization, medicalization, politicization and commercialization of sports have
increased the pressure on athletes, coaches and sporting bodies to achieve. From the beginning,
the fight against doping in international competitive sports suffered from the asymmetry of laws
and their enforcement in different countries and sports.
Private use of doping substances is pervasive inside and outside competitive sports. Illegal
substances are easily available through many supply chains, including medical professional,
pharmacists, veterinarians, coaches and fitness instructors and club owners, bodybuilders and
many others.
State agencies, the IOC, and international sports federations for decades dragged their feet at
creating a consistent set of rules, implementing widespread testing and enforcement. Despite
growing awareness of extensive doping in competitive sports, at best the international sports
governing bodies turned a blind eye or labeled the occasional dirty athlete an aberration. At
worst, they colluded in covering up positive test results, which served their national medal count
as well as their commercial interests. Governments delayed implementation and enforcement of
In poorer countries, the lure of fame and fortune offers a way out of poverty when other doors
are closed. A Kenyan runner may support not only himself and his extended family, but a whole
village with his prize money. When lax testing and enforcement is combined with severe
economic pressure to excel and a medical profession willing to make performance-enhancing
drugs available, private doping becomes quite common15.
Historically, the governance of sports, including the task of keeping sports clean and fair has
been the responsibility of non-governmental, sporting agencies, such as league organizers,
National Athletics Federations, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) or Major Event
The lack of legitimate rules and enforcement by the Olympic committees and the many
independent sports governing bodies served everyone well until the positive test of Ben Johnson
at the 1988 Seoul Olympics shone a light on doping in sports. The Canadian government started
to investigate, and the Council of Europe adopted the Anti-Doping Convention, providing a
multi-lateral standard to harmonize measures taken against doping (1989)16. In the 80s and 90s,
some western government agencies started to develop their own anti-doping efforts, adding to
the labyrinth of competing rules and standards set forth by the IOC and international sports
federations. Major investigations and reforms tended to follow doping scandals: the baseball
scandal in the 1990s, the Tour de France 1998 Festina Scandal, followed by the Lance
Armstrong admissions.
Olympic administrators, afraid to lose control of the anti-doping administration to national
governments, saw the need for an independent body to oversee international doping policy. The
decades long struggle to promote a unified approach culminated in the formation of WADA by
the IOC in 1999, which is funded and governed in equal parts by national governments and
officials from the Olympic movement. Thus, Olympic administrators developed and retained
control over their own administrative structures, legislative codes and enforcement procedures.
15 See Seppelt documentary on Kenyan runners and Passas interview with ABC Australia:
WADA sees its mission in leading a collaborative, worldwide movement for doping-free sport.
In 2004, WADA introduced the first World Anti-Doping Code (WADC), which specifies
prohibited substances and methods used for doping. The Code has since been revised thrice and
is currently under review for a 2021 update. In general, WADA, through the WADC, provides
rules and a framework for signatory countries and organizations17. Government-funded National
Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs) are in charge of testing through WADA-accredited
regional testing centers. Sanctions are then determined and enforced by national athletic
federations or major event organizers, and the IAAF can suspend national athletics federation if
they themselves are found to be dirty. Athletes have to submit to unannounced testing both out-
of-competition and in competition, and sanctions following infractions can be appealed to
national arbitration, the Court of Arbitration fro Sport (CAS) and then finally the Swiss Federal
WADA’s mission in leading a collaborative worldwide movement for doping-free sport
translates into a range of roles, including the monitoring of Code compliance, education and
athlete outreach, scientific research, accreditation of the independent testing centers and
therapeutic use exemption (TUE), anti-doping coordination and the development of the regional
anti-doping organizations program and collaboration with law enforcement.
Given the international nature of sports and complex legal, practical, commercial and political
challenges of enforcing anti-doping measures, a coordinated effort and strong global leadership
are sorely needed.
WADA is working with national sports agencies, anti-doping agencies, governments and other
stakeholders at improving compliance with the World Anti-doping Code. Over the years, there
have been a number of improvements, such as the introduction of the Athlete Biological
Passport, the updated Anti-Doping Administration & Management System (ADAMS) and
regular revisions of the Code19. Yet, there is clearly room for improvement, so calls for stronger
leadership and greater independence of WADA officials abound.20
Need for continued improvements
Inevitably, in the complex world of international sports, WADA has come under heavy criticism
in a variety of areas. While some - such as the recent discussion on gender classification and
natural hormone variations - are linked to scientific and social issues21, others relate to the
politicized and commercialized nature of sports. Uneven implementation of the Code is an
18 David P., A Guide to the World Anti-Doping Code: A Fight for the Spirit of Sport, Cambridge
University Press, 2013.
19 , ,
code/2021-code-review ,
bodies , , ,
ongoing problem resulting from political and competitive pressures, corruption, underfunding of
NADOs, technical and human issues, and lax and controversial enforcement.22 Nowhere is the
system under greater strain than in cases of state-sponsored doping, recently highlighted by the
Russian case, which touches on many of the issues.
Politics of doping: State doping
WADA does not directly conduct testing and sanctioning, but delegates this to the National Anti-
Doping Organizations (NADO), accredited testing laboratories, the national sports federations
and major event organizers.23 This can lead to inconsistent testing and enforcement when these
agencies politicized, even state-sponsored misconduct, leaving athletes at the mercy of a
corrupted system.
State sponsorship is hard to detect but is often suspected in states where international athletic
success is a matter of great national pride, where a centralist government and its sports agencies
can collude to hide the doping, and coaches and doctors manipulate their athletes into accepting
doping. The states of the former Eastern-block as well as communist Asian countries were long
alleged to have engaged in state sponsored doping.
State-sponsored doping of adolescents in East Germany has been well documented. Between
1970 and 1990, children and adolescents were subject to extensive, state-enforced doping that
was administered without information or consent. While the program yielded champions,
particularly females who responded better to male hormones, up to 10,000 athletes suffered, and
are still suffering, negative health effects, some of them severe, including death24. There are
signs that their children are now suffering adverse health effects.25 While the German state has
offered some compensation, the perpetrators have received only limited punishment.26
22 Ulrich, R. et al, Doping in Two Elite Athletics Competitions Assessed by Randomized-
Response Surveys, Sports Medicine, 2017,Vol. 48, 211-219, DOI: 10.1007/s40279-017-0765-4,
anti-doping-agency.html ,
23 David P., A Guide to the World Anti-Doping Code: A Fight for the Spirit of Sport,
Cambridge University Press, 2013.
24 “Hormonal doping and androgenization of athletes: a secret program of the German
Democratic Republic government.” Franke WW, Berendonk B. Clin Chem. 1997 Jul;
43(7):1262-79., , ,
ddr-dopingopfer/20616948.html ,
bundesrat-bis-zum-31-12-2019-verlaengert/ ,
State-sponsored doping was common in Socialist states before 199027, and there are indications it
is still happening in Communist countries (N Korea, China), though this is near impossible to
prove. Hajo Seppelt documented violations of anti-doping rules such as not permitting access to
athletes for testing and presence of known doping coaches28.
There have been allegations for a long time that Russian sports officials and coaches have
supplied banned substances to their athletes, and there is evidence that this continues29.
The two McLaren Reports, commissioned after allegations brought by the former director of the
Moscow laboratory (Anti-doping Center) Dr. Rodchenkov, established that over 1000 Russian
athletes benefitted from manipulations to conceal positive doping tests.30 The manipulations are
thought to have started after a low medal count at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games
and refined between 2011-2015. The McLaren Reports show that the government, the security
services and the sports authorities colluded to hide widespread doping of Russian athletes across
many sports and competitive events, later confirmed by data obtained by WADA31. The agencies
include the Ministry of Sport, the Russian National Anti-Doping Agency, the Moscow
Laboratory, the Sochi Laboratory, the Center of Sports Preparation of National Teams of Russia
and the Russian Federal Security Service.
In the aftermath of the report’s publication, many Russian athletes were banned from the 2016
Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and many athletes lost medals won at previous
competitive events. In response to the disciplinary action taken by sports governing bodies,
Russian hackers obtained the positive doping test results of several American athletes, who had
prior medical exemptions to take drugs. Russia disputes tampering with the samples and alleges
that their athletes get singled out for punishment, while Western athletes are let off the hook. The
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko claimed that two female ice hockey players from the 2014
Winter Olympic games in Sochi had male urine samples because they had sex in the days prior
to testing. He suggested that this was similar to two Western athletes who were reinstated after
positive test, when they claimed that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine led to a positive
test result32. As more samples from previous events get re-tested and more athletes and sports are
involved, Russia has had to give up hosting events in a variety of sports.
The acting director general of the Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA, Anna Antseliovich,
confirmed in an interview with the NY Times that “It was an institutional conspiracy”33, but this
27 See Child Doping documentary in GDR by Hajo Seppelt
28 Sports in
North Korea: look at an unknown world, 2011.
29 Doping Top Secret: Russia’s
Red Herrings, ARD 2016.
32 See
33 See
admission was quickly withdrawn by her and Russian officials34. The data on which the
McLaren statements have been made can be found online35.
In early 2017, IAAF officials traveled to Russia to discuss the possible reinstatement of Russian
teams to international competitions. Ahead of these sensitive meetings, the German television
channel ARD announced the publication of another documentary with new doping allegations
featuring another Russian whistleblower.36 This announcement caused a string of rebuttals ahead
of the ARD documentary, even though the identity of the whistleblower or the specific
allegations had not been revealed yet.37,38
After the airing of the documentary, which showed a banned coach working at an official
Russian training site, the head of RUSADA Yelena Isinbayeva turned on the whistleblower and
criticized him for not contacting Russian officials instead.39 Interestingly, during the same
program in which the documentary was aired, ARD published an interview with WADA
Director General Niggli concerning a new protection measure for whistleblowers.40 Indeed, Dr.
Rodchenkov has voiced his concern about being targeted by Russia and the fear for his life.41
The Russian Olympic Committee was suspended from the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, and
clean Russian athletes were allowed to compete under the Olympic flag.
After successful appeals to the CAS, many Russian athletes sanctioned after the 2014 Winter
Games, were reinstated in February 2018, and the IOC lifted its suspension of Russia the same
month after the closing of the Winter Olympic Games. 42 Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency
RUSADA was reinstated by WADA in September 2018 under the condition that WADA be
given all data and samples from the Moscow Laboratory and that Russia acknowledge that state-
35 Evidence package of McLaren Report
McLaren Part 1 (18 July 2016) https://www.wada-
McLaren Part 2 https://www.wada-
sponsored doping had taken place. 43 However, no such statement has been made and the
delivery deadlines were missed. 44 The decision by the IOC and by the WADA Executive
Committee to reinstate Russia has drawn widespread international criticism, including from
WADA insiders and Richard McLaren, athletes and anti-doping agencies, and exposes
weaknesses in governance and conflicts of interest at WADA45. Jack Robinson, former Chief
Investigator for WADA, has strongly criticized the reinstatement of Russian athletes and has
issued a stark inside view of the failing system of the WADA and IOC-led anti-doping
campaign46. Their criticism highlights a host of problems besetting the current WADA-
coordinated anti-doping approach.
2 – Better leadership and better governance
WADA has come under repeated criticism over its governance structures, lack of transparency
and perceived inconsistencies in processes and sanctions. According to Lam (2014), “Good sport
governance should include such principles as (a) the role of the governing body, (b) structure,
responsibilities and accountability, (c) democracy, elections and appointments, (d) transparency
and communication, and (e) solidarity.”47
As the guardian of the World Anti-doping Code, it seems imperative that WADA itself has
unblemished governance and the strictest Code of Ethics. Recent years have shown that
international sports organizations are plagued by corruption and unethical behavior at every
level, so it is essential that WADA, in its role as leader and guardian of the World Anti-doping
Code, publicly state and demonstrate its commitment to ethical governance within its own
structures. Yet, the process of nominations of WADA officials has been unclear for years.
WADA itself does not publish its own Ethics Code or Compliance program.
Ordway (2018) succinctly summarizes the governance issues that befall WADA because of its
current governance model48. Others have also expressed concerns that the WADA’s funding
model exposes it to pressures from the IOC.49 Ordway highlights the need for a re-writing of its
constitutional documents to remove serious conflicts of interest brought on by dual leadership
interest-1.4833572 ,
46 ,
47Lam Eddie T.C. , The Roles of Governance in Sport Organizations. Journal of Power, Politics
& Governance, June 2014, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 19-31
roles between WADA and the IOC, overlapping personnel within WADA governing boards, and
representation based on its funding model.50
In response, WADA has established committees to guide the reform of its own governance.
Among the recommendations put forth by the Governance Working group are term limits, the
addition of independent seats, and the formation of an Independent Ethics Board and of a
Nominations Committee:51
“An independent President and Vice-President, with a small remuneration going with the
role of the President; So far, the presidency rotates between an Olympic movement
representative and a government official.
The addition of two independent seats – with full voting rights – to the Executive
Committee. Nominations for these positions could be proposed by the sports movement
and the governments but the candidates should have no link to either group in accordance
with the strict criteria that will be vetted by the Nominations Committee;
A limit of three three-year terms (nine years in total) for all members of the Foundation
Board, Executive Committee and the Standing Committees with no possibility of
stepping out for a term and returning;
Formation of a Nominations Committee to ensure the right people in terms of skills and
independence serve in senior governance roles within WADA;
Formation of an Independent Ethics Board to ensure compliance with the standards of
conduct required for good governance; and
One seat each at a minimum for both athlete and NADO representation in all Standing
An independent, well-funded Ethics and Compliance office that has access and authority at the
highest level of an organization is a staple of good governance. Yet, WADA’s Independent
Ethics Panel has only advisory function to the Management, and its main task seems to be to
advice on issues relating to WADA’s mission, not its governance. Transparency, documented
training, help-lines and whistleblower protection, continued efforts to assess and improve
compliance are all required parts of a successfully implemented Code of Ethics. An ethical
culture can only take hold and thrive if its values are clearly stated and promoted by all officials.
Indeed, progress has been made in the establishment of the Intelligence and Investigations Unit,
which also offers a tip line. 52
WADA’s other committees, such as the Compliance Review Committee or the Athlete
Committee, can make recommendations but lack decision-making authority or representation at
the Foundation Board or Executive Committee. It seems prudent that a body tasked with as wide-
ranging issues as WADA, responsible for the wellbeing of athletes in such diverse sports and
cultures, and under such intense commercial pressures should seek as diverse and complete a
representation on its Foundation Board and Executive Committee as possible. Yet, WADA has
50 Marina Nehme and Catherine Ordway, Governance and Anti-Doping: Beyond the Fox and the
Hen House, in Doping Sport and the Law, Haas, U. and Healey, D. (eds), 2016, Hart Publishing
consistently resisted calls to include other stakeholders. First and foremost athletes have been
seeking an equal voice but were rebuffed again at the September 2018 meeting of the WADA
Executive Committee, where members emphasized their intent to maintain the current
composition of the Committee with sole representation of IOC and government officials.53
Athletes’ complaints
The core aspect of WADA’s mission is to promote health, fairness and equality for athletes
worldwide, yet the very athletes it promises to protect and cater to have been conspicuously
absent from its decision-making bodies. The governance of ethical behavior in sports and of
WADA in particular should include a role of athletes in governance and as stakeholders,
participants, subjects, and beneficiaries of anti-doping policies.
Russia’s reinstatement and lax treatment drew the criticism of many athletes, who feel they are
not given a fair treatment and not listen to by WADA and the IOC. Three-time Canadian
Olympian Beckie Scott resigned her post on the WADA Compliance Committee in protest after
WADA decided to reinstate RUSADA, even though it failed to comply with WADA’s
Perceived or real inconsistencies in testing and sanctioning have led to calls for clearer
enforcement procedures. Athletes have been complaining for a long time that the WADC is too
complex and includes substances that have not been shown to enhance performance, and there
have been calls for a radical simplification of the Code. Some suggest that the testing can be too
sensitive, picking up metabolites that may originate from unrelated food sources or
unintentionally ingested ingredients. With weeks, months or even years passing between sample
taking, testing and re-testing, and the need to travel to events around the globe, athletes find it
hard to reconstruct their diet and origin of their meals and supplements. There are many reports
of athletes who are unable to challenge a test result effectively, and have suffered loss of income,
training or competition time while defending themselves. Sanctioning also is flexible by design
to accommodate the specificities of each case, which on the other hand has led the perception of
uneven enforcement.
There is growing concern about the athletes’ privacy as testing has become ever more intrusive
and data protection has proven vulnerable. In the summer of 2016, Fancy Bears hacked and
published the medical records of western athletes and in another hacking in 2018 published IOC
emails in an effort to embarrass the WADA-led anti-doping effort.55
53 https://www.wada-
interest-1.4833572 ,
The 2015 revision of the WADC and the International Standards include a clearer commitment
to the principles of international law and human rights56. Yet, more effective tests are also more
intrusive. As noted by Rigozzi et al, “… the fight against doping will continue to have to deal
with questions of privacy, data protection and scientific integrity of its processes. The conflicts
arising therefrom can only be resolved through weighing the interests at stake, and, ultimately
through the test of proportionality.” 57
On the other hand, transparency in testing and sanctioning is also important. Athlete advocacy
groups such as the European Elite Athletes Federation have tried to collect testing and compare
data, which WADA requires the NADOs to publish annually. They found lack of reporting or
gross inconsistencies in reporting even between the European NADOs58. This makes it almost
impossible to compare performance and efficiency of testing, which is needed to confirm
efficacy and equity of the test, and which flagged athletes may need to evaluate their own test
result. However, available data point to significant differences in testing, such as great variations
in the number of tests, the percentage of out-of competition and in competition testing, or the
percentage of blood testing (0-33%). WADA itself published only a summary of the test results
it has received (mostly through ADAMS) on its website59.
In response, athletes are organizing to ensure a greater voice 60. There are suggestions that
athletes may benefit from unionizing. Unions could counteract the individualization of athletes
before the anti-doping agencies by representing individual athletes when testing results flag
them, paying for lawyers and additional testing of samples, food and supplements, creating
transparency and comparing testing results that are returned from the accredited labs, supporting
athletes while in limbo and engaging in collective advocacy and bargaining.
As an example that highlights a different approach to anti-doping, most Major American Sports
Leagues have not adopted the WADC, but have worked with athletes to decide on a shortened
list of banned drugs, clearer procedures and shorter sanctions for first time offenders. Collective
bargaining has served the athletes well in becoming partners in determining the anti-doping
policies. This has resulted in a practical balance between protecting the athletes’ health, frequent
testing, avoiding over-complicated, choking regulations, and sensible sanctions61.
_isti_final_january_2017.pdf ,
57 Antonio Rigozzi / Marjolaine Viret / Emily Wisnosky, Does the World Anti-Doping Code
Revision Live up to its Promises?, in: Jusletter 11 November 2013
58 Paulina Tomczyk and Walter Palmer (2017). An assessment of the Monitoring Practices of
European National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs)
61046478 ,,
61 Sports Reference Blog: Professional Sports Leagues Steroid Policies https://www.sports-
This perspective is analogous to the mind shift that occurred when adaptive cancer therapy was
introduced. Traditional cancer therapy strove to eradicate every last cancer cell, in the process
often making the patient more unwell and creating aggressive, resistant and often lethal tumors.
In contrast, by taking an evolutionary and ecological approach in reducing excessive cancer
growth, but allowing a less harmful remnant to persist and frequently monitoring the cancer, the
disease can often be managed long-term as a chronic condition62. Similarly, sports researchers
have argued that it is time to focus on athletes’ health instead of an ever growing list of banned
drugs and methods: performance enhancing methods are so varied and many that they cannot be
eradicated, but steps must be taken to protect the athletes’ wellbeing63. Advocates have argued
for the use of currently banned substances in healing and recovery, even the complete de-
regulation of doping. 64
Other actors and solutions
Independent anti-doping activists have emerged from the media, legal professions, and former
athletes and sports officials.65 Investigative journalists have reported on several potential
infractions and have created a secure, confidential whistle blower website outside the purview of
WADA, with the promise to investigate further any tip left on the site66. Other sites have been
created to publicize doping related news and provide a forum for discussions.67 There are
associations that aim to support victims of state doping.68
Governments and sponsors can take a role in effecting change. The Canadian government has
been critical of WADA’s decision to reinstate RUSADA, the United States have advocated for a
reform of WADA, and are looking to apply the Global Magnitsky Act as a weapon against
doping and corruption in sports.69 In contrast, former East German sport officials who were
leading forces in the GDR doping program were found guilty of harming up to 140 young
women and children yet received only a suspended jail sentence.70
62 Robert Gatenby, Ariosto Silva, Robert Gillies and Roy Frieden, Adaptive Therapy, Cancer
Res. 2009 Jun 1; 69(11): 4894–4903
66 ,
interest-1.4833572 ,
Sponsors in particular, can play a crucial role in supporting clean sports. Nike’s 2018 value-
based ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick is an example of the power of sponsors, which
sponsors of the IOC may wish to emulate71. Sir Craig Reedie, the president of WADA, called on
broadcasters and sponsors to help fund clean sport during his opening speech at the March 2016
annual WADA Symposium for Anti-Doping Organisations in Lausanne.72
Conclusion and Next Steps
While broad-based recreational sports carry health, emotional and social advantages for the vast
majority of people, competitive sports is a rather different activity. At the competitive level,
sports is an entertainment business, a matter of national pride and unity, a marketing platform for
its sponsors, a showcase for its host cities and countries, a testing ground for the limits of human
abilities, a means to attain power, glory and convey genetic superiority, a role model of moral
Thus, there are many and diverse stakeholders in competitive sports: IOC and NOCs, national
governments, IAAF and sports governing bodies, media, advertising agencies and their clients,
private companies, host cities, athletes, coaches, medical community, fitness community, and the
general public. In general, it is agreed that clean sports events are the only ethical way that
benefit all stakeholders. Yet, national agendas, commercial interests, personal greed, temptations,
inequalities, pride, competitive pressure, or even a general attitude towards medicating, lead to
This begs the question: Who pays for and who benefits from competitive sports, clean or
otherwise? Is it a government, satisfying a popular need for national heroes, unity and pride,
distracting from unpopular policies? Is it business, paying for television rights, product
endorsements and association with champions? Do we crave ever more outrageous performances
and feats?
Given the general consensus and demand for clean games, WADA has provided a unifying
international regulatory framework, while the UNESCO convention offered a legal basis and
framework for national governments. However, uneven testing levels by national bodies,
selective enforcement by national athletic federations, fragmented controls, and asymmetric legal
provisions in different countries make for an unsatisfactory and inconsistent patchwork.
Similarly to other international areas of regulation, the global community has a combination of
soft law and binding standards, guidelines and principles as well as national laws, but consensus
and consistent enforcement are elusive.
This unwillingness of Olympic movement officials to cede power goes hand-in-hand with
underrepresentation of other stakeholders in decision making bodies, first and foremost of the
athletes themselves. WADA must include more stakeholders to achieve a more diverse
representation and to dilute the power of IOC and governments, which are currently funding
WADA and make up the representatives in equal parts; such stakeholders include athletes,
media, academics, legal and medical experts, and sponsors.
Wide-ranging reframing of the governance of the anti-doping efforts must include a host of
reforms, such as clear procedures, transparency and accountability, empowerment of a greater
variety of stakeholders to support independent governance, and simplification of the WADC.
Whistleblowers and Ombudspersons
WADA has instituted whistleblower protection measures, such as safeguarding the name of the
person as well as providing help in protecting the persons themselves. WADA has hired a law
enforcement professional to guide its whistleblower protection efforts. This is a laudable step in
the right direction, but more resources must support intelligence gathering, investigations, and
confidential persons of trust (ombudspersons).
In addition, setting up a network of ombudspersons, discretely available to athletes and coaches,
could help define appropriate courses of action. It could also strengthen athletes’ and coaches’
capacity to resist the pressures and temptations to engage in doping. This could be done under
the auspices of WADA or independently, but exempt from mandatory reporting of incidences of
doping. A professional to whom concerned athletes can speak confidentially or anonymously
when they face dilemmas or are troubled, can help resolve problems, offer guidance, provide
personal support and professional advice, counsel on whistleblowing and assist on how to handle
disputes and challenges.
Harmonization of national civil and penal codes
Problematic legal asymmetries must be addressed through the ratification and implementation of
international treaties and the incorporation of the World Anti-Doping Code and Prohibited List
into national laws. The same applies to damaging civil and criminal penalty asymmetries across
countries, which must be reduced to the maximum possible. Such efforts at law and enforcement
harmonization would address conflicting interests of sports federations, they would supplement
WADA’s efforts towards effective detection and sanctioning, they would enhance international
police and judicial cooperation, and they would support the investigation and control of supply
Legal efforts may also include the innovative use of UN conventions against corruption and
transnational crime, as argued by Passas and Ordway (2015)73. This can be quite effective given
the near-universal ratification of these international instruments which contain also the legal
basis for states to cooperate and assist each other.
Transparency and independent scrutiny
Vital as the (criminal and other) law is in promoting clean games, it has limits and can at times
be counter-productive. Preventive and procedural steps are therefore crucial and these must be
73 Passas, Nikos, & Ordway, Catherine. (2015). Sports corruption: justice and accountability
through the use of the UNCAC and the UNTOC. In UN Office of Drugs and Crime (Ed.),
Compendium of the Anti-Corruption Academic Initiative Symposium (pp. 120-137). Vienna:
based on a thorough, well thought-out, evidence-based strategy. This brings out the following set
of policy implications, which can constitute concrete and independent projects to be pursued
o Establish in a systematic fashion the range, extent and impact of lack of integrity in
sports. In essence, we need an accurate diagnostic in order to develop more effective
counter-measures toward sustainable success.
o Systematic review of contributing factors and thoughtful, long-term planning to address
them (incl. criminogenic asymmetries – legal, economic, political, cultural,
environmental, etc.) - this would assist with a systematic exploration of demand side
solutions to the problem
o Transparent decision making and governance. A review of sports governance is in
order, perhaps even the creation of some “truth commission” of independent persons
guiding reviewing and leading the strategy construction as well as its subsequent
o Application of tax and fair competition/anti-trust laws as an additional instrument of
legal control is another tool authorities may wish to consider
The review provided in this chapter points to a rather complex social problem that calls for a
joint and coordinated effort of stakeholders from the private and public sectors, NGOs,
international organizations and sports institutions. Hence the need for collective action with all
stakeholders: state institutions, national and international governing bodies, sports clubs, athlete
associations, private sector, media, NGOs and public at large. The best existing model for such a
project is that of the Collective Impact Forum, whereby the solution of a serious social problem
is built into the business model of private companies and the operations of NGOs and
government agencies74.
Finally, we conclude with some further thoughts and general questions that can inform parts of
the brainstorming and strategy-formation process recommended above that deals with cultural
asymmetries and conflicts.
We should treat doping substances as harmful drugs and prosecute as such. Perhaps we
should consider considering them as illegal markets: investigate supply chains, apply
money laundering rules, asset freezes etc.
Prevent harm to recreational athletes, the general population, and children: How do we
protect young male and female athletes from artificial body images and cultures that push
them to excel beyond their normal capacity, no matter whether they engage in
recreational, amateur of professional sports? Do we do enough to educate children on
harmful effects of doping drugs?
Conceptual and normative clarity need to be sought with respect to what criteria by which
artificial enhancements may or may not be acceptable. Is the ideal of the clean athlete,
competing only based on their natural talents and hard work, a viable concept? Why are
some medical treatments allowed that clearly enhance performance, such a Lasik eye
surgery for golf players, while others are deemed inappropriate?
Related to the above is the way in which we define as a treatable illness worth medicating
with an exemption compared to a deficit of talent or ability to progress. When are
74 See
engineered improvements acceptable (Oscar Pistorius, yachting) and why are they
banned in some places (shark skin swim suits, balls and rackets in various sports)? Does
doping only become a problem in elite and competitive sports, or would it be acceptable
in non-competitive or recreational settings as long as it does not harm the athlete? Would
doping still be a concern if all risks to health and fairness were removed? How will we
deal with advances that are impossible to detect, e.g. neuronal brain stimulation, genetic
Engage in a substantive debate on the role and functions of sport across continents and
contexts. What is the idea of sport and what we want it to be in the future? Is it a mere
entertainment for audiences looking for the faster, better, higher, further at all cost and
transgressing the limits of the human body? Or do we want to enjoy the talented and
specially gifted athletes with their human abilities, pure as nature has given them, only
enhanced through effort and practice? Is sports only joyful play or a serious means
towards establishing power, wealth and genetic superiority?
Do we allow some artificial enhancements (if administered without health risks) or
condemn the clean athlete to lower achievements?
In the end, doping in sport is part of a wider societal ethical debate on the “treatment of the
healthy”. We live at a time when doping and physical enhancements are pervasive, whether it is
students taking drugs to help them study, young men trying to buff up their physique (and their
attitude), the overworked looking for relaxation and restful sleep, fighter pilots and surgeons
aiming to steady their hands, the young woman freezing parts of her ovaries for later re-
implantation to delay menopause, body builders going for the extra muscle, the amateur athlete
looking for a little edge, elective plastic surgery, gene editing or a maturing population using
drugs and brain stimulation in an attempt to delay aging75. In contrast to the widespread use of
enhancements in society, “natural” hormone levels in athletes are hotly debated and the IAAF
now requires female athletes to limit their testosterone levels medically prior to competing
internationally76. This policy has been called out as scientifically flawed by researchers77.
This great natural variation between individual and the widespread use of drugs and
enhancements by the healthy warrants an examination of our attitudes towards doping in the
widest sense and heralds the global ethical discussion to be had: when does the “augmented”
become “un-natural”? How do we keep the playing field level and protect the “clean”
(unadulterated) human being from their enhanced peer? The informed discussion of integrity in
sports has still ways ahead.
77 Pielke, R., Tucker, R. & Boye, E. Int Sports Law J, 2019.
00143-w and others cited therein
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Du 12 au 15 novembre 2013 se déroulera, à Johannesburg, la 4è Conférence mondiale sur le dopage et le sport. Dans le cadre de celle-ci, le nouveau Code mondial antidopage (2015 WADA Code) devrait être adopté. Cet article retrace les étapes du processus de consultation qui a abouti au projet final et met en lumière les principales innovations qu'il contient. Les auteurs examinent si et dans quelle mesure les objectifs proclamés au cours du processus de révision ont été atteints. Un regard critique sera aussi porté sur certaines modifications, notamment lorsque leur application pratique paraît problématique. La table en annexe montre l'évolution des articles clés du Code au fil des quatre versions.
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