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How to protect the clean athletes?

Wie schützt man die sauberen Sportler?


Anti-doping work can only be successful if athletes are not only participating, but actively engaging and promoting their right to compete in clean and fair sport. To achieve this, there is a strong need for strategic realignment, improvement of doping control programs, support from criminal investigating bodies, as well as structural and person-centred prevention. Anti-doping work needs full independence from the sport establishment to be credible and effective. A real separation of powers implies the establishment of an “International Anti-Doping Service” (IADS) as a missing link in the international anti-doping framework besides the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). WADA must be strengthened to impose sanctions on noncomplying organisations and countries, based on accreditation and review processes, benchmarking and quality controls. The highest standards of good governance must apply to anti-doping organisations. Sports organisations, major event organizers, sport sponsors, media institutes and public authorities must contribute to a global anti-doping fund to provide sufficient funding for the new anti-doping framework. The cooperation with criminal investigation bodies is fundamental to identify not only cheating individuals but uncover whole networks. The use of certain substances and methods should be considered under criminal law. Structural preventive measures can contribute an important part, but must go hand in hand with values-based education. Spreading information must not be misjudged as education and education without research is like testing without intelligence: A waste of time, money, and effort. Some propositions of this paper could be implemented immediately, while others will take effect in the long run; nevertheless, each step is important to protect the clean athletes.


Die Anti-Doping Arbeit kann nur erfolgreich sein, wenn die Sportler diese nicht nur über sich ergehen lassen, sondern aktives Engagement zeigen, um ihr Recht auf saubere und faire Wettkämpfe einzufordern. Um dies zu erreichen, bedarf es dringend einer strategischen Neuordnung, Verbesserung der Dopingkontroll-Programme, Unterstützung durch die Strafermittlungsbehörden sowie einer strukturellen und personenzentrierten Prävention. Um glaubwürdig und effektiv zu sein, muss die Anti-Doping Arbeit völlig unabhängig vom Sportestablishment organisiert werden. Echte Gewaltenteilung in der Organisation der internationalen Anti-Doping Arbeit beinhaltet die Einrichtung eines „Internationalen Anti-Doping-Service“ (IADS) als fehlendes Glied neben der World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) und dem Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Die WADA muss gestärkt werden, um Organisationen und Länder, die gegen die Regeln verstoßen, zu sanktionieren, basierend auf Akkreditierungs- und Reviewprozessen, Benchmarking und Qualitätskontrollen. Die höchsten Good-Governance-Standards müssen in den Anti-Doping-Organisationen Anwendung finden. Sportorganisationen, Organisatoren von Großveranstaltungen, Sportsponsoren, Medieneinrichtungen sowie die staatliche Einrichtungen müssen ihren Beitrag zu einem globalen Anti-Doping-Fonds leisten, um ausreichende finanzielle Mittel für das neue Anti-Doping-Framework bereitzustellen. Die Zusammenarbeit mit den Strafermittlungsbehörden ist essenziell, um nicht nur den Betrug einzelner Personen, sondern ganzer Netzwerke aufzudecken. Die Verwendung bestimmter Substanzen und Methoden sollte im Strafrecht Berücksichtigung finden. Strukturelle präventive Maßnahmen können einen wichtigen Teil beitragen, müssen jedoch gemeinsam mit einer wertebasierten Erziehung erfolgen. Die Verbreitung von Informationen darf nicht als Prävention missverstanden werden. Prävention ohne Evaluierung der Wirksamkeit ist wie die Durchführung von Dopingkontrollen ohne sinnvolle Überlegungen zum bestmöglichen Zeitpunkt: eine Verschwendung von Zeit, Geld und Mühe. Einige der in diesem Beitrag genannten Vorschläge könnten sofort umgesetzt werden, während andere erst langfristig Wirkung zeigen. Nichtsdestotrotz ist jeder Schritt wichtig, um die sauberen Sportler zu schützen.

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  1. 1.

    According to Hoberman (2009) there is a striking similarity to the “war on drugs” proclaimed by US-president Richard Nixon which heavily influenced the international anti-drug policies. Wagner and Pedersen (2014) state that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) adopted the language of the “warfare genre” after the case of Ben Johnson in 1988 “to construct a narrative presenting itself as a successful pioneering leader of a coalition fighting doping in sport”.

  2. 2.

    This problem can be found in several other aspects of the modern system of sport. Without the efforts, passion and risks of athletes all around the world, the grandiose framework of officials, support personal, sponsors, event organizers, media coverage and political interest would not exist. But the voice of the athletes is hardly heard when it comes to rules or regulations, not to mention competition schedules and regeneration times.

  3. 3.

    Even the term “anti-doping” is problematic because it emphasizes sport without doping and not just clean sport. Like the phrase “Don’t think about a pink elephant” immediately gets you to think of a big pink animal with a trunk, “anti-doping” always refers to prohibited substances and methods because the human mind is challenged by negations (Nieuwland & Kuperberg, 2008).

  4. 4.

    Similarly, phrases like “financial doping for someone or something”, “doping for your hair” or “that was like doping for me” trivialize the problem as peccadillo and thwart the importance of anti-doping work.

  5. 5.

    The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has taken the lead in this new approach. In earlier years, the wordings in WADA’s official magazine “Play True” were “protect the integrity of sport” or “protect the health of athletes”. The first issue 2014 makes clear that from now on “every emphasis should be placed on protection of the clean athlete” and WADA’s “opportunity to play its part in protecting the rights of the clean athlete” (WADA, 2014a).

  6. 6.

    One reason for this limitation is the lacking approbation for another matrix (e. g. hair, nails). The current legal framework allows only urine and blood samples.

  7. 7.

    For an overall view of these cases see Müller, 2013, pp. 648–651, pp. 658–659, pp. 663–673, pp. 690–693, pp. 744–748.

  8. 8.

    For a study of anti-doping work of selected International Federations and the professional leagues NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL see Müller, 2013, pp. 466–503.

  9. 9.

    While the doping control process is still under IOC’s responsibility, the major event organizer made a first important step delegating the decisions on alleged anti-doping rule violations during the Olympic Games to an independent CAS panel (IOC, 2016).

  10. 10.

    The Austrian way can serve as a model: national federations are not allowed to conduct doping controls; each sample is collected by the National Anti-Doping Agency, which is exclusively responsible for results management. The autonomous laboratory in Seibersdorf performs the analysis of the samples; possible anti-doping rule violations are judged by the independent legal commission. The independent arbitrary commission serves as the appeal body.

  11. 11.

    Interestingly, anti-doping agencies, laboratories and decision panels as the main service providers have little to no institutionalized voice in WADA’s foundation or executive board.

  12. 12.

    According to the current World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) WADA is also responsible for appeals on therapeutic use exemptions and panel rulings as well as final instance in certain disputes (WADA, 2013, pp. 31–36, pp. 39–40, pp. 83–84).

  13. 13.

    In the current framework NADOs or sports federations could produce thousands of advance-notice doping controls without attracting WADA’s attention. The existing compliance system is mainly a paper-based assessment of the implementation of certain rules and regulations (WADA, 2016b).

  14. 14.

    Respective regulations are included in the WADC, but the implementation of corresponding sanctions is the responsibility of sport federations and major event organisers (WADA, 2013, pp. 122–124).

  15. 15.

    This construction is a win–win situation for sports federations and major event organizers. They could boast that they financially support clean sport, but would not be responsible for the quality of anti-doping work and would not have to justify for any shortfalls in their sport.

  16. 16.

    Although research in baseball suggests that efforts for clean sport have negative influence on attendance at MLB games and revenue (Tainsky & Winfree, 2008).

  17. 17.

    The very fact that the broadcasting rights for the Olympic Games 2018–2024 were considered to be worth EUR 1.3 bn shows the potential of this approach (IOC, 2015b).

  18. 18.

    WADA’s athlete committee is absolutely right in its demand for extensive investigations of all allegations and its perception that not enough efforts are made to protect the clean athletes (WADA, 2016e). As stated before, WADA is not the right addressee for executive authority, but a global anti-doping fund could allocate the funding where it is needed most and establish special task forces.

  19. 19.

    See Müller, 2016, pp. 406–429; Pound, Ayotte, Parkinson, Pengilly, & Ryan, 2013; Pound, McLaren, & Robertson, 2015, 2016.

  20. 20.

    Fifteen years after its foundation in 1999, WADA developed a first set of parameters for appropriate and consistent minimum level of analysis in certain sports and disciplines. Since January 2015 the “Technical document for sport specific analysis” is mandatory for all signatories of the WADC (WADA, 2014b).

  21. 21.

    According to the WADC, athletes in the highest testing pool have to define one hour per day in which they are available for doping controls, otherwise a missed test is recorded. Three missed tests within 12 months imply an anti-doping rule violation (WADA, 2013, p. 21).

  22. 22.

    According to the Austrian anti-doping law a doping control team must include at least a doping control officer and a well-trained assistant (Republik Österreich, 2014).

  23. 23.

    Chaperones are accepted at Olympic Games like Rio 2016 as well. According to the Report of the Independent Observers of WADA, there were several no-shows and other serious issues caused by these volunteers which, in connection with other shortcomings, endangered the integrity of the entire process (WADA, 2016 g).

  24. 24.

    In addition, the ABPP is capable of sanctioning athletes who use substances or methods which are not detectable, due to the treacherous effects on the athlete’s body values.

  25. 25.

    Not every single competition must be named, but four or five personally important events. Of course this list has to be updated if the preferences change.

  26. 26.

    According to WADA’s (2013) Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRV) Report which was published in May 2015 for the first time a total number of 1953 ADRV was recorded. Roughly 13% (266) of these ADRV originated from non-analytical evidence (WADA, 2015). The report for 2014 recorded 231 non-analytical cases out of 1639 ADRV (WADA, 2016a).

  27. 27.

    It might also increase the deterrence effect if potential cheaters have to consider potential whistleblowers. Interesting research on problems like littering shows that the literal “watching eyes” influence the behaviour of people (Bateson, Callow, Holmes, Roche, Redmond, & Nettle, 2013). The subjective perception of a high detection probability is considered to be central to the effectiveness of sanctions (Bette, Kühnle, & Thiel, 2012, p. 76).

  28. 28.

    In fact, real autonomy was never in place considering that sport is largely financed by tax money (state subsidies, tax rebates and infrastructure projects).

  29. 29.

    Similarly bizarre is the thought experiment of a consumer protection organisation managed by a supervisory board which consists of representatives of the same companies, whose products should be tested. Or imagine an owner of a restaurant who is in charge of deciding whether he has to close his kitchen due to unhygienic conditions and report about it to the public—or not.

  30. 30.

    According to judge Ulrich Haas roughly 90% of all cases against coaches and support personnel arbitrated by CAS originated in proceedings of the Italian law enforcers based on extensive Italian criminal law (Paoli & Donati, 2013, pp. 27–28).

  31. 31.

    See Müller, 2016, pp. 483–486.

  32. 32.

    Special law regulations could be established to release doctors, pharmacists, lawyers and psychologists from their strict confidentiality, especially if they are aware of serious violations like trafficking.

  33. 33.

    The new ADRVs “prohibited association” and “complicity”, which were established in the WADC 2015, tried to close this gap, but—inherent to the system—they can only establish indirect sanctions inflicted on athletes or their support personnel in organized sport (WADA, 2013, pp. 23–24).

  34. 34.

    In recent years criminal organizations have changed their focus from drug trafficking, which is a criminal act in many countries, to doping trade. As many countries currently have no specific anti-doping legislation, a transnational prosecution of organized crime is not possible (UNESCO, 2013).

  35. 35.

    This requirement does not only apply to athletes but to all citizens. For the pros and cons see (Müller, 2016, pp. 488–493).

  36. 36.

    Therefore, proposals like locating athletes via GPS (instead of using whereabouts) or injecting a microchip to monitor their physiological data must be rejected immediately. Technical feasibility does not counterbalance ethical dilemma.

  37. 37.

    Right now there is a legitimacy crisis in international sports governance (Geeraert, 2015).

  38. 38.

    Of course the doping control programs have to be flexible enough to avoid predictability for the next year after issuing a report.

  39. 39.

    The advantages of transparency counterbalance the possibility of (wrongful) suspicions (e. g. if an athlete was tested very often).

  40. 40.

    The establishment of this tool is also essential to ensure the ban in every sports and country.

  41. 41.

    Of course the implementation of this measure is only realistic if there is a strong commitment of media institutions and spectators for clean sport.

  42. 42.

    For a study of anti-doping work of selected International Federations and the professional leagues NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL see Müller, 2013, pp. 466–503.

  43. 43.

    The author first invented this catchy phrase at the “Values-Based Education Conference” in Ottawa on October 2–3, 2015 (CCES, 2015). Meanwhile WADA as well as the Institute for National Anti-Doping Agencies (INADO) use this quote to emphasize their agenda for education in the coming years (INADO, 2015).


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Correspondence to David Müller.

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Müller, D. How to protect the clean athletes?. Ger J Exerc Sport Res 47, 183–193 (2017).

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  • Doping
  • Doping-equivalent behavior
  • Education
  • Repression
  • Harmonization


  • Doping
  • Doping-äquivalentes Verhalten
  • Bildung
  • Repression
  • Harmonisierung