World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Olympics – Part One

Two days before the London Olympics officially start, it has been reported that nine, yes that’s correct a staggering nine track and field athletes have been suspended for doping offences.

Given that it is such a current topic, we have explored in this blog the purpose of WADA and the impact it has on the participating athletes.

So you may be thinking who are the WADA?

Whilst the acronym speaks for itself, the WADA mission is to lead a collaborative worldwide campaign for doping-free sport. WADA was founded on the principles that athletes have a fundamental right to participate in doping-free sport and that doping endangers athlete health and the integrity of sport.

It was established in 1999 and its key activities include scientific research, education development of anti-doping capacities and monitoring the World Anti-Doping Code (Code).

The Code came in force in 2004 and is the core document that provides a framework for harmonized anti-doping policies, rules and regulations within sport organizations and public authorities.  See here for further information on WADA.

So how does WADA fit with the Olympics?

WADA aims to ensure that athletes benefit from the same anti-doping protocols and protections, no matter the nationality, the sport, or the country where tested. Their goal is safe and fair procedures.

A ‘Prohibited List’ is provided by WADA each year setting out substances and methods prohibited in and out of competition and in particular sport. There is one exception to this under ‘Therapeutic Use Exemption’ which allows an athlete to use prohibited substances for medical reasons.

Therefore athlete testing or doping control is essential in protecting doping-free sport.

This year being no exception, the officials have introduced two new procedures making the London Olympic Games the ‘most tested’ ever. It is for this reason that six of the nine athletes have been suspended. They had been caught through the new test ‘athlete biological passport scheme’ (which measures changes in an athlete’s blood profile). The remaining three positive doping results were retested samples from last year’s world championships at Daegu, South Korea. Their bans vary from two to four years.

Athlete samples can be retested up to eight years after an Olympics ends which can lead to retroactive sanctions. That in itself is a massive deterrent to any athlete considering cheating.

It is obvious that the impact for any athlete who fails a test at the London Olympics or any Olympics will be severe not only in terms of the sanctions but their dreams and dignity. The head of the WADA reinforced this today by warning that British athletes who fail a drug test at the London Olympics face becoming ‘outcasts’ in their own country. See here for more information.

In future blogs we will look more in detail into specific athlete’s suspensions and the recourse available to them to challenge the ban.

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