Why doping in sport can't be stopped

Published 29 October 2019

The picture is a snapshot from The Economist's documentary "Doping in Sport: Why can't it be stopped" 

Senior Asser researcher Dr Antoine Duval  spoke to The Economist for a short documentary on the widespread occurrence of doping in sports and the difficulties to tackle that phenomenon.




Duval provides a critical analysis of the legitimacy and effectiveness of sports governing bodies (SGBs) like the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and touches on how conflicts of interests can stand in the way of a fair and transparent anti-doping process. “WADA as an institution is weak. It is basically a naked legislator. It produces rules that it has absolutely no power and capacity to enforce,” he says. 

He argues that the SGBs “have an incentive of being seen as doing a lot, but they don’t’ have an incentive to catch a lot of cheats, because that would damage the image of their sport”. This is likely to hamper their determination in putting in place effective regulatory mechanisms to rein the use of doping in international sports.

What could be done?
While there is no miracle solution to the problem of doping, Duval says a set of structural changes are likely to respond to some of the issues mentioned in the documentary:

  • WADA should dramatically reinforce its investigative capacity;
  • WADA should facilitate safe whistle-blowing;
  • WADA needs more financial means;
  • WADA must be more independent from the SGBs and more accountable to its main stakeholders, the athletes;
  • CAS independence must be reinforced;
  • The independence of the SGBs’ anti-doping operations and internal tribunals must be reinforced;
  • The revenues of sports must be more equally distributed; more money must flow to the athletes who are not on the podium of the Olympics.

Watch the full documentary here. For a longer policy brief, from which many of these proposals are taken, see Tackling Doping Seriously - Reforming the World Anti-Doping System after the Russian Scandal.

Dr Antoine Duval is head of the International Sports Law Centre at the Asser Institute, which is part of the Asser research strand on Advancing Public Interests in International and European Law. This research strand aims to critically examine how International and European law may further the protection of public interests in a globalising (and privatising) world.