Sports Law Lecture and Book Launch

06 - 06 July 2016
  • Starts at: 17:00h
  • Fee: Free
  • Venue: T.M.C. Asser Instituut
  • Organiser: Asser International Sports Law Centre
  • Address: R.J. Schimmelpennincklaan 20-22
    2517 JN The Hague

Anti-doping in the wake of the Meldonium cases: How to balance scientific complexity and legal fairness

Speaker: Dr Marjolaine Viret

The credibility of anti-doping efforts suffered severe blows throughout 2015, following leaks of blood data in athletics and the debacle surrounding the Russian doping control system. The latest storm to hit the anti-doping movement, however, arose from the unprecedented number of cases reported after the anti-ischemic drug “Meldonium” was added to the 2016 WADA prohibited list. The announcement in early March by tennis player Maria Sharapova that she had been tested positive for the newly banned substance attracted massive attention from the media. This brought debates that had so far been confined to specialised legal and scientific circles into the public sphere.

Beyond their political dimension, these recent events have highlighted a fundamental difficulty of modern anti-doping: how to build a coherent and fair system of law in a context of growing scientific complexity. The difficulty is exacerbated when the system also needs to be effectively explained to the athlete community and to the public. In that regard, media exposure over the past months has opened a Pandora box that may prove difficult to close again without thorough debate.

The lecture will seek to draw some lessons from the recent history in anti-doping. It will show that the challenges inherent to “science-based law” may gradually command adjustments to the system. Headlines about Meldonium may only barely have revealed the tip of the iceberg. Deeper questions include: how solid must scientific foundations be to ban a substance and what is the role of performance enhancement? Can athletes be expected to bear the risk of scientific uncertainty to ease the evidentiary burden on anti-doping organisations? What is the appropriate role of the scientific experts in the process and how can we improve their interaction with regulators and adjudicating bodies? The lecture will explore how these questions at the junction of legal and scientific disciplines impact the system and whether recent events may represent a signal for change.

This event will also celebrate the publication of “Evidence in Anti-Doping at the Intersection of Science & Law”, Viret’s comprehensive, practice-oriented guide to the evidentiary regime under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) including the functioning of the Athlete Biological Passport. The book gives lawyers involved in anti-doping the keys to a better understanding of the science underlying the WADC regime, while providing anti-doping scientists with the first reference material to understand the legal framework in which their activities are embedded, and was published through T.M.C. Asser Press in late 2015. 

Dr Marjolaine Viret is an attorney admitted to the Geneva bar (Switzerland) who specialises in sports and life sciences. Her interests focus on interdisciplinary approaches as a way of designing effective solutions in the field of anti-doping and other science-based domains. She regularly provides advice on doping matters and has also held positions within panels and committees in sports organisations, currently as a member of the UCI Anti-Doping Commission. She participates as a Swiss National Science Foundation post-doctoral researcher in the WADC Commentary Project at the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland), under the direction of Prof. Antonio Rigozzi, with the goal of producing the first comprehensive legal commentary of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code.


17:00: Welcome and Book Presentation by Prof Ben Van Rompuy (T.M.C. Asser Instituut) 
17:10: Lecture by Dr Marjolaine Viret (attorney at the Geneva bar)
18:10: Q&A session 
19:00: Closure by Prof Ben Van Rompuy and Mr Frank Bakker (T.M.C. Asser Press) 
19:05: Reception 

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