Drugs in Sport: December 2011 Update

Introduction

Two months ago an Australian Paralympic cyclist was banned from competition for two years following a positive drug test. The athlete was tested shortly after breaking a world record at the national cycling championships earlier this year.

In Australia, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency (ASADA) is responsible for promoting, co-ordinating and monitoring anti-doping. ASADA conducted 7,090 drug tests in 54 sports in 2010-2011. These tests led to 42 athletes being entered onto the independent Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel’s formal Register of Findings. 

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) co-ordinates global anti-doping through its World Anti Doping Code. It publishes an annual List of Prohibited Substances that have the potential to enhance performance or to mask the use of substances and methods that are prohibited. WADA’s 2012 List of Prohibited Substances was published three months ago.

Doping is characterised by:

  • Presence of a prohibited substance in an athlete’s drug test sample.
  • Use or attempted use of a prohibited substance or method.
  • Refusal to submit a drug test sample after being notified of a test.
  • Failure of an athlete to notify the anti-doping agency of whereabouts or missed tests.
  • Tampering with any part of the doping control process.
  • Possession of a prohibited substance or method.
  • Trafficking a prohibited substance or method.
  • Administering or attempting to administer a prohibited substance or method to an athlete.

WADA’s 2012 List

The 2012 List specifies nine groups of prohibited substances. Each substance is identified as having a potential to enhance performance in competitions or to mask the use of substances and methods that are prohibited.

These prohibited substances:

  • Increase protein synthesis, augment muscle mass and strength (anabolic agents)
  • Stimulate production of naturally occurring steroids, build up muscle, repair body tissue and improve the body’s ability to carry oxygen (peptide hormones, growth factors and related substances)
  • Relax airways (bronchodilators), enhance anabolic and anti-inflammatory actions (beta-2 antagonists)
  • Inhibit or stimulate specific cellular receptors (hormone antagonists and modulators)
  • Increase urination to flush, dilute or conceal prohibited substances (diuretics and other masking agents)
  • Increase reaction time, reduce pain (stimulants)
  • Provide pain relief and mood alteration (narcotics and cannabinoids)
  • Inhibit inflammation, pain relief, relax respiratory tract (glucocortisosteroids)

The 2012 List has an introductory sentence that emphasizes the status of drugs with no official approval and not covered by the nine generic substances in the List: “Any pharmacological substance which is not addressed by any of the subsequent sections of the List and with no current approval by any governmental regulatory health authority for human therapeutic use (for example, drugs under pre-clinical or clinical development or discontinued, designer drugs, veterinary medicines) is prohibited at all times.”

Three prohibited methods are included in the 2012 List. The enhancement of oxygen transfer increases oxygen delivery to tissues to improve aerobic power.  Chemical and physical manipulations consist of the use of substances and/or methods, which may alter the integrity, and/or validity of urine samples obtained in doping controls. These include, but are not limited to, catheterisation, urine substitution and/or tampering with doping control. Gene doping is considered (but not found at present) to target muscle hypertrophy, oxygen delivery, and changes in muscle phenotype.

Exemptions

There are cases where athletes “would experience a significant impairment to health if the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method were to be withheld in the course of treating an acute or chronic medical condition.” An International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions became effective in 2005. WADA permits the Therapeutic Use of the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method when such use would not enable “additional enhancement of performance other than that which might be anticipated by a return to a state of normal health following the treatment of a legitimate medical condition”. The exemption exists in cases where “there is no reasonable therapeutic alternative to the use of the otherwise Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method”.

London Olympics 2012

The ‘Win Clean: Say No To Doping’ campaign for the London Olympics was launched in October.  The launch took place in a week when there was active discussion of a Court of Arbitration for Sport decision that the International Olympic Committee’s Rule 45 that bans athletes suspended for doping for six months or more from competing at the Olympics was “invalid and unenforceable”.

Photo Credit

Cheating

1948 Olympic Games Poster

IOC Rule 45: A Brief Note

I have been researching anti-doping in sport recently.

In September the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) published its 2012 List of Prohibited Substances.

In October the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency (ASADA) published its 2010-2011 annual results.

The Win Clean: Say No To Doping campaign for the London Olympics was launched in October too.  The launch took place in a week when there was active discussion of a Court of Arbitration for Sport decision that the International Olympic Committee’s Rule 45 that bans athletes suspended for doping for six months or more from competing at the Olympics was “invalid and unenforceable”.

Today (17 November) there is news that the British Olympic Association (BOA) Board have discussed testing their by-law (on the exclusion of athletes suspended for doping) in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The Chair of the BOA Board, Lord Moynihan, is quoted as saying:

We now have a situation where drugs cheats will be able to compete in London 2012. We must decide: is the outcome we want a watered-down, increasingly toothless gesture towards zero tolerance?

In an iSportConnect discussion overnight, Sarah Elison has pointed out that “there are two issues to wrestle with (1) is sport a livelihood? and (2) are such bans ‘regulation’ or ‘punishment’?” Sarah observes that:

On the first, one of the reasons we shy away from lifetime bans for professionals, is because of their right to earn a living. Whilst the regulatory and disciplinary process can temporarily deprive them of this there remains a possibility of remediation and a return to the profession in which they (and we) have invested. At a recent conference we discussed sports bans and noted that even a short (2 year) ban for an athlete such as a young gymnast could in reality be a “lifetime” ban for the time they would be at the top of their sport. Whether athletes could argue such bans deprive them of a right to earn a living is separate discussion and has its own case law.

The second point considers the purpose of sanctions. In professional regulation we regulate to “protect the public”, to “maintain and uphold standards” and to ensure “trust and confidence”. Regulatory sanctions are aimed at this, and any punitive effect is acknowledged to be a by-product. It seems the language of the BOA is about punishment for cheats but when you focus on punishing there is a risk of disproportionate and inflexible sanctions. The sports’ bodies need to be clear about their intentions.

She concludes that:

It seems to me there is scope for bans which potentially last a lifetime but with the option of restoration (not overturning the ban but reviewing it after a minimum period of time). Such a model can maintain integrity and reputation in sport and keep out, for an appropriate period, those deemed unsuitable to compete.

This debate in encouraging me to contemplate whether integrity and reputation are absolute or relative constructs.

Postscript

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will hold a hearing on 12 March 2012 to consider the British Olympic Association’s (BOA) bylaw for lifetime bans for drugs cheats. A verdict will be announced in April. The BOA lodged an appeal in December 2011.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has registered the appeal filed by the British Olympic Association (BOA), against the decision by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to declare the BOA’s selection policy addressing athlete eligibility standards for Team GB to be non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code.

The appellant BOA requests that the WADA decision be overturned. The case will be handled in accordance with the procedural rules set out in the Code of Sports-related Arbitration. The parties will first exchange written submissions and will then be heard at a hearing, the date of which will be fixed in 2012. A final ruling is expected in April 2012.

Managing Risk: Cyber Attack on Sport

The publication of Dmitri Alperovitch‘s investigation of targeted intrusions into 70+ global companies, governments and non-profit organizations during the last 5 years included mention of attacks on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Vanity Fair provides details of the targeted intrusion in its September edition. A post in The Economist (3 August) notes that:

Many data were extracted from sport-related outfits like WADA, the International Olympic Committee, as well as a host of national teams, in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

WADA has a statement on its website about the McAfee Report.

Dmitri pointed out in his blog post (2 August) that:

The interest in the information held at the Asian and Western national Olympic Committees, as well as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency in the lead-up and immediate follow-up to the 2008 Olympics was particularly intriguing and potentially pointed a finger at a state actor behind the intrusions, because there is likely no commercial benefit to be earned from such hacks.

I am very committed to open access to information but do recognise that agencies will hold sensitive information. I am hopeful that such information can be preserved through reciprocal altruism otherwise the rhetoric about the integrity of sport remains just as rhetoric. Perhaps WADA will have to add a new category of monitoring that looks specifically at cyber crime.