Drugs in sport

Drugs In Sport: 'Drugs Are A Great Problem In Sport; Can The New WADA Whereabouts Rule Eliminate The Usage Of Drugs? Or Is It Impossible To Stop The Use Of Drugs By Athletes?'

As of the 1st of January 2009 the World anti-doping agency (WADA) implemented an updated version of its 2004 ‘whereabouts' rule, meaning that top elite athletes in all areas of sport must provide WADA with knowledge of their whereabouts for an hour every day for 365 days a year, so that random out-of competition drug tests could be carried out. The 2004 code was limited to just 5 days a week; however WADA decided to extend the rule to apply to all 7 days in a week.

Drugs are a big problem in all Sports; many athletes have been tested positive for the taking of performance enhancing drugs or injury masking drugs in order to compete or to win in their specialist area. The problem is biggest in areas such as cycling, where the ‘Tour de France' is quite a hot spot for drug taking athletes, and also in sports such as swimming and athletics, namely the running events, which have a big problem with athletes taking performance enhancing drugs meaning that it is quite a large problem with the Olympic Games which caused the international Olympic committee (IOC) to act.

In order to combat the rise of drug taking and doping in sports the IOC created WADA in 1999, as a result of the ‘Declaration of Lausanne'. The formation of WADA intended to centralise drug testing procedures and also to tighten up on drug control in all sports events in all countries, in fact nearly 600 sports organisations have signed up to the world anti-doping code of 2004. Furthermore, the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport was implemented in 2007 and was unanimously signed up to by 191 governments; this was the first global treaty against doping in sport, and enables governments to align policies with the WADA code.

WADA's formation resulted in a stark increase in positive drug tests in the 2000 Olympic Games and the 2002 Winter Olympics - eleven positive tests at the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney compared to the two positive tests at the 1996 Atlanta games and five in Barcelona 1992 proves this. Also 26 athletes were found to have taken illegal substances in Athens 2004, and in Beijing 2008 where the slogan was "Zero Tolerance for Doping" 48 athletes were found guilty of drug use, showing that although there is a big problem, WADA's influence has helped to make the games fairer and cleaner. Moreover, since its formation in 1999, more elite athletes are being found to have taken illegal substances, or have been found guilty of suspected use of drugs. This includes professional footballer Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United and England in 2003, and promising British sprinter Dwain Chambers who equalled Linford Christie's British and European record of 9.87secs, also in 2003. The fact that more and more elite athletes are being caught to have partaken in the use of drugs shows that both the 600 organisations who support the WADA code and the 191 governments supporting the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport have really started to take doping seriously and have shown a clear determination to rid the sporting world of cheating with the aid of drugs.

More recently however, WADA has been criticised by elite athletes such as Rafael Nadal after their new ‘whereabouts' rule which was implemented on January 1st 2009, the Spanish World number 2 tennis player argues that the rule is to ‘invasive'. Furthermore, it has been criticised by Sporta, the Belgian sports union, who are preparing a legal challenge against it arguing that the rule violates Article 8 of the European Convention of Human rights and FIFPro (The Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels) who also intend to issue a legal challenge; theirs is based on data protection and employment law.

The rule was an update on the previous one which was included in the WADA code 2004, changing the earlier ‘whereabouts' rule where any elite athlete in an Olympic sport or any leading professionals in the main team sports such as football, rugby and cricket would have to specify three months in advance, a time and a place for five days a week; when they would be able to be found to give a no-notice drugs test. WADA's new ‘whereabouts' rule extended the timescale to seven days a week, so therefore applying to 365 days in a year. Furthermore, unlike before the change, when athletes could pick any hour between 5am and 11pm, The new code moved the earliest available time to 6am, meaning that they could not select 5am-6am as their chosen hour when most athletes were resigned to the fact that they may get an early wake-up call two or three times a year. Another change was that they were no longer able to be in the stated place for a portion of the hour, but now have to be there for the whole hour, shifting the responsibility from the testers who had to be in the right place at the right time, to the athletes.

In reply to the criticism's towards the new rule, WADA released ‘Q&A: Whereabouts requirements' (which I have enclosed in my portfolio). In this, WADA aimed to arrest any bad feelings towards the rule, and aimed to answer any questions in relation to it, in order to support its decision to extend the rule. In it, they argue that the whereabouts rule is important for sports as it provides the opportunity for out of competition drug tests, so is a ‘powerful means of deterrence' and also strengthens ‘athlete and public confidence in doping-free sport'. It also provides answers to questions on why it was changed, stating that it was ‘to build on the practical experience gained by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and its stakeholders (the Sport Movement and governments of the world) in the implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code since its inception in 2004'.

In ‘The Times' article ‘Wada's 'whereabouts' rule a necessary evil to keep game clean' I also have enclosed in the portfolio, writer Mike Atherton, the chief cricket correspondent shows his support to the rule, arguing that it is important for the integrity of the sport - using the example of the state of Major League Baseball at the moment, where drug use is such a problem that Mark McGwire, the former home run record-holder in Major League Baseball, has yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame because there are doubts as to whether he has taken drugs or not.

These items which I have just mentioned can be found in my portfolio. They support the WADA ‘whereabouts' rule which came into effect on the 1st of January last year, and believe that it can be successful in the fight against drugs in sport. However, also in my portfolio are two articles on the criticisms of the rule; of people arguing that it is a violation of human rights to implement the rule, and also on those who believe that it is too invading on privacy and therefore they do not find the rule to be legal or fair to athletes. My opinion of the ‘whereabouts' rule is not too dissimilar to those who are against the rule, and after reading into the opinions of different people who are in favour of it, my opinion has not changed because although I do agree that tighter controls are needed to stop drug taking and cheating in sports, I do not believe that forcing people to declare where they will be for one hour of everyday is the right way to go about it, however, I am not really convinced there are any better alternatives.

The rule could perhaps be against someone's rights, as it stops giving people the freedom to choose what they can and can't do at the given time. And I also believe that it could be quite unfair to athletes if something happens, and for one genuine reason or another they are not able to be where they said they were going to be, as this would then result in one ‘strike' and if an athlete gets three strikes, they're out, and are given an immediate one year ban. Moreover, they would then be banned in further competitions, similar to Dwain Chambers, who failed a drugs test and was banned for a year. He later tried to get into the British Olympic Team for the Beijing Olympics, however was not allowed to take part because of the past ban. If an injustice occurred, and someone was mistakenly thought to have taken drugs, or was not present where they said they would be five months prior; similar to Diane Modahl who was mistakenly thought to have taken drugs in the 1994 Olympic Games, their career could be ruined.

On the other hand, I cannot really see what other alternatives there are. Random out of competition drug tests need to be taken to catch the cheats ruining sporting events and for it to be efficient WADA would need to know where the athletes are at a given time. So although it can be seen as unjust to some, the ‘whereabouts' rule will probably be the most effective method of catching those who are trying to cheat their way to winning.



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  • Waddington, Ivan. Introduction to drugs in sport addicted to winning? Abingdon: Routledge, 2009. Print.

  • Schneider, A. Doping in Sport Global Ethical Issues (Sport in the Global Society). New York: Routledge, 2007. Print.