Doping (sport)

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


In sports, doping refers to the use of performance-enhancing drugs, particularly those that are forbidden by the organizations that regulate competitions. Another form of doping is blood doping, either by blood transfusion or use of the hormone erythropoietin (EPO). Also considered "doping" by many is the use of substances that mask other forms of doping.[citation needed]

Doping is considered to be unethical by most international sports organizations and especially the International Olympic Committee. The reasons are mainly the health threat of performance-enhancing drugs, the equality of opportunity of the athletes and the exemplary effect of "clean" (doping-free) sports in the public.

Currently, tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) and modafinil are causing controversy throughout the sporting world, with many high profile cases attracting major press coverage as prominent United States athletes have tested positive for these doping substances. Some athletes who were found to have used modafinil protested as the drug was not on the prohibited list at the time of their offence; however, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) maintains it is a substance related to those already banned, so the decisions stand. Modafinil was added to the list of prohibited substances on August 3, 2004, ten days before the start of the 2004 Summer Olympics.

In recent years, gene doping has been reported as being an emerging form of doping. Gene doping would be very difficult to detect as well as permanent and irreversible.

Sports lawyer Michelle Gallen has said that the pursuit of doping athletes has turned into a modern day witch hunt. [1]

Reaction from sports organizations

The International Amateur Athletic Federation, now the International Association of Athletics Federations, were the first international governing body of sport to take the situation seriously. In 1928 they banned participants from doping, but with little in the way of testing available they had to rely on the word of the athlete that they were clean.

It was not until 1966 that FIFA (soccer) and Union Cycliste Internationale (cycling) joined the IAAF in the fight against drugs, closely followed by the International Olympic Committee the following year.

Progression in pharmacology has always outstripped the ability of sports federations to implement rigorous testing procedures but since the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1999 more and more athletes are being caught.

The first tests for athletes were at the 1966 European Championships and two years later the IOC implemented their first drug tests at both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Anabolic steroids became prevalent during the 1970s and after a method of detection was found they were added to the IOC's prohibited substances list in 1976.

A handful of commentators maintain that, as outright prevention of doping is an impossibility, all doping should be legalised. However, most disagree with this assertion, pointing out the harmful long-term effects of many doping agents. With doping legal, all competitive athletes would be compelled to use drugs, the net effect would be a level playing field but with widespread health consequences.

Another point of view is that doping could be legalized to some extent using a drug whitelist and medical counseling, such that medical safety is ensured, with all usage published. However, under such a system, it is likely that athletes would cheat by exceeding official limits to try to gain an advantage. Thus, to police such a system could be as difficult as policing a total ban on performance enhancing drugs.

Notable drug scandals and use in professional sport

  • As early as the late 19th century professional cyclists were using substances like caffeine, cocaine and ether-coated sugar cubes to improve performance, reduce pain and delay fatigue.
  • In the 1904 Olympics, Thomas Hicks (USA) won the marathon at St. Louis and collapsed. It took hours to revive him; he had taken brandy mixed with strychnine to help him win his gold medal.
  • The World Weightlifting Championships of 1954 featured the first unconfirmed attempt at doping. Testosterone injections by Soviet Athletes resulted in the Soviets winning the gold medal in most weight classes and breaking several world records.
  • In early 1960s Dr. John Ziegler (who was the US Team Coach in the 1954 Soviet-dominated World Weightlifting Championships) administered his weightlifters Dianabol tablets and the US dominated the 1962 World Championships.
  • During the 1967 Tour de France, Tom Simpson collapsed during the ascent of the Mont Ventoux. Despite mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and the administration of oxygen, plus a helicopter airlift to a nearby hospital, Simpson died. Two tubes of amphetamines and a further empty tube were found in the rear pocket of his racing jersey.
  • A famous case of illicit drug use in a competition was Canadian Ben Johnson's victory in the 100 m at the 1988 Summer Olympics. He subsequently failed the drug test when stanozolol was found in his urine. He later admitted to using the steroid as well as Dianabol, Cypionate, Furazabol, and human growth hormone amongst other things. Johnson was stripped of his gold medal as well as recognition of what had been a world-record performance. Carl Lewis was then promoted one place to take the Olympic gold title. Lewis had also run under the current world record time and was therefore recognized as the new record holder.
  • In the 1970s and 1980s, many athletes from a variety of sports (including swimming, track & field, & weightlifting) in Eastern bloc nations were suspected to be augmenting their ability with some kind of pharmacological help. After the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the reunification of Germany, documents surfaced proving that the East German sport establishment had conducted systematic doping of virtually all of its world-class athletes, under a program known as State Plan 14.25.[2]
  • In 1998 the entire Festina team were excluded from the Tour de France following the discovery of a team car containing large amounts of various performance-enhancing drugs. The team director later admitted that some of the cyclists were routinely given banned substances. Six other teams pulled out in protest including Dutch team TVM who left the tour still being questioned by the police. The Festina scandal overshadowed cyclist Marco Pantani's tour win, but he himself later failed a test. More recently David Millar, the 2003 World-Time Trial Champion, admitted using EPO, and was stripped of his title and suspended for two years. Still later, Roberto Heras was stripped of his victory in the 2005 Vuelta a España and suspended for two years after testing positive for EPO.
  • Six members of the Finnish cross country skiing team (four men and two women) were disqualifed for taking hemohes, a blood plasma expander, at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships 2001 in Lahti, Finland. These six skiers became known as the Lahti six.
  • At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, the SoHo trio (named for the Nordic skiing venue where they competed, Soldier Hollow) consisting of Johann Mühlegg of Spain, Olga Danilova, and Larisa Lazutina (both of Russia) were caught during routine doping tests. All forfeited Olympic medals.
  • 2003 saw U.S. sprinter Kelli White stripped of her two gold medals from the World Track & Field Championships for testing positive for Modafinil, four-time U.S. 400 hurdles champ Sandra Glover, 2000 Olympian Eric Thomas, Olympic 4x400 meter Gold Medalist Calvin Harrison, hurdler Chris Phillips, and Olympic and World Champ 4x100 meter relay Gold medalist Chryste Gaines all tested positive for Modafinil, while 25-time U.S. middle distance national champion and two-time 1,500 meter World Champ silver medalist Regina Jacobs, 2003 U.S. national shot put champion Kevin Toth, hammer thrower John McEwan, and four members of the 2003 Super Bowl Oakland Raiders football team (Bill Romanowski, Dana Stubblefield, Chris Cooper, and Barret Robbins) all test positive for designer steroid THG.
  • In July 2005, founders of California's Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative pleaded guilty to steroid distribution and money laundering. Those implicated or accused in the ensuing scandal include sprinters Dwain Chambers, Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, and shotputter C.J. Hunter, baseball players Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield, and several members of the Oakland Raiders.
  • At the 2006 Winter Olympics, Walter Mayer fled from the police when, acting on a tip, the Italian authorities conducted a surprise raid to search for evidence of doping.
  • The 2006 book Game of Shadows alleges extensive use of several types of steroids and growth hormone by baseball superstar Barry Bonds, and also names several other athletes as drug cheats.
  • In 2006, Spanish police arrested five people, including the sporting director of the Liberty Seguros cycling team, on charges of running a massive doping scheme involving most of the team and many other top cyclists. Several potential contenders in the 2006 Tour de France were forced to withdraw when they were linked to the scheme. Operación Puerto was mainly linked to doping in football, tennis and athletics, but the press concentrated on a small number of cyclists as Le Tour de France was about to start. For more details, see Operación Puerto doping case.
  • Less than a week after the 2006 Tour de France it was revealed that winner Floyd Landis had tested positive for an elevated testosterone/epitestosterone ratio (with normal levels of testosterone and deficient levels of epitestosterone) after his stunning stage 17 victory. Secondary tests have also confirmed the preliminary findings of deficient levels of epitestosterone resulting in a skewed T/E ratio, and a decision to strip him of the title is currently pending.
  • On April 22 2006, American Olympic and world 100-meter champion Justin Gatlin failed a drug test when steroids were found in his system. Special testing done both before and after this positive result came back negative, suggesting the results came from application of a steroid cream rather than steroid ingestion.
  • In September 2006, some former teammates of cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted to taking EPO during the 1999 Tour de France. While they did not state that Armstrong had done the same, the article printed did attack Armstrong, who throughout his career has been a target of doping allegations.
  • On May 25 2007, 1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis of Denmark admitted to having used EPO from 1993 through 1998, including his winning Tour, and also admitted to having used cortisone and growth hormone. The day before, two of his teammates on Team Telekom during that time, Rolf Aldag and six-time Tour de France green jersey winner Erik Zabel, had admitted to EPO use during the 1996 Tour. Riis has offered to give back his Tour de France victory.[3]
  • For a full discussion on the collective bargaining clauses in the four major North American sports relating to steroids testing and detection, see "Illegal Muscle- A Comparative Analysis of Proposed Steroid Legislation and the Policies in Professional Sports' CBA's That Led to the Steroid Controversy. Paul A. Fortenberry and Brian E. Hoffman. 5 Va. Sports & Ent. L.J. 121 (2006)
  • The 2007 Tour de France was rocked by a series of doping scandals:
    • German rider Patrik Sinkewitz, who had pulled out of the Tour after a crash on Stage 8, was later revealed to have tested positive for elevated testosterone levels before the Tour. He asked for his B sample to be tested. His T-Mobile Team immediately suspended him, and German prosecutors opened a criminal investigation.
    • Pre-race favorite Alexander Vinokourov (Kazakhstan) tested positive for an illegal blood transfusion after winning the Stage 13 time trial. The incident led his Astana Team to quit the Tour after Stage 15.
    • Italian Cristian Moreni tested positive for testosterone after Stage 11. When his positive test was announced after Stage 16, his entire Cofidis team pulled out of the Tour. Moreni acknowledged his offense, choosing not to have his B sample tested. He was detained by French police, who searched the hotel rooms where the Cofidis team was to spend the evening after Stage 16.
    • The race leader, Michael Rasmussen of Denmark, won Stage 16. However, shortly after the stage, his Rabobank team pulled him from the Tour for violation of team rules. According to reports, he had lied about his whereabouts during pre-Tour training to both the team's directeur sportif and the sport's governing body, the UCI, and had missed two tests during the run-up to the Tour. Denmark's cycling federation had already removed him from the national team over this issue.
    • After the end of the Tour, it was revealed that Spanish rider Iban Mayo tested positive for EPO late in the race.
  • On July 19 2007 the California State Athletic Commission announced that both competitors in the lightweight title fight at UFC 73, Sean Sherk and Hermes Franca, had tested positive for banned substances in post-fight drug tests. Franca tested positive for Drostanolone while Sherk tested positive for Nandrolone. Both fighters were suspended from competing in California until June 2008 but Sherk has filed for an extension to his appeal hearing.
  • 30 November 2006 to September 11 2007: the case of testing positive for amphetamine by Tunesian swimmer Oussama Mellouli. A few weeks after the conclusion of the 2007 World Aquatics Championships in Melbourne on 28 March 2007, reports began to surface that Oussama Mellouli had tested positive for a banned substance at the US Open in November, 2006. These reports surfaced because FINA, the international governing body of the sport, had discovered that Tunisian authorities had known about the positive test, and had only given him a warning. The rules state, that when an athlete tests positive for a banned substance, he or she must be given a 2 year ban from the sport. FINA had therefore taken the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. On September 11 2007, Oussama Mellouli lost his case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, receiving a competition ban for 18 months, retroactive to 30 November 2006. As a result of this sanction, all of his results from the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne have been vacated, including his gold medal in men's 800 m freestyle and his silver medal in men's 400 m freestyle. He will no longer be considered the first Arab world champion swimmer. However, he will have a chance to swim competitively again by the time of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
  • On October 5 2007 multiple Olympic and World Championship track gold medalist Marion Jones pled guilty to lying to federal agents about her use of steroids prior to the 2000 Olympic games, admitting to using the steroid Tetrahydrogestrinone - known as "The Clear" or "THG" - beginning in 1999.

Anti-doping Convention

The Anti-Doping Convention of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg was opened for signature on 16 December 1989 as the first multilateral legal standard in this field. It has been signed by 48 states including the Council of Europe non-member states Australia, Belarus, Canada and Tunisia. The Convention is open for signature by other non-European states. It does not claim to create a universal model of anti-doping, but sets a certain number of common standards and regulations requiring Parties to adopt legislative, financial, technical, educational and other measures.

The main objective of the Convention is to promote the national and international harmonisation of the measures to be taken against doping. In their constitutional provisions, each contracting party undertakes to:

create a national co-ordinating body; reduce the trafficking of doping substances and the use of banned doping agents; reinforce doping controls and improve detection techniques; support education and awareness-raising programmes; guarantee the efficiency of sanctions taken against offenders; collaborate with sports organisations at all levels, including at international level; and to use accredited anti-doping laboratories. Furthermore the Convention describes the mission of the Monitoring Group set up in order to monitor its implementation and periodically re-examine the List of prohibited substances and methods which can be found in annex to the main text.

An Additional Protocol to the Convention entered into force on 1 April 2004 with the aim of ensuring the mutual recognition of anti-doping controls and of reinforcing the implementation of the Convention using a binding control system.

See also


  1. Witch hunting in the 21st century
  2. "Sports Doping Statistics Reach Plateau in Germany". Deutsche Welle. 2003-02-26. Retrieved 2007-08-04.
  3. "Riis confesses to doping offences". BBC. 2007-05-25. Retrieved 2007-05-25.

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