Doping has had an impact on running at all competitive levels. The pressure to produce results and the quick solutions that illegal substances offer have sadly caused many athletes to turn to drugs to enhance their performance. World Athletics and other governing organizations have created thorough rules and requirements that athletes must follow to participate in competitions. In this post, we will examine the basics of those rules and expectations and explain the importance of having these processes in place.
Doping – What is Banned
The world standard for prohibited substances is the Prohibited List, which is published by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) . The list is broken down into three categories:
- Prohibited At All Times: This list includes steroids, growth hormones, some asthma medications, diuretics, and other hormones. Athletes can never use them whether only in training or competition, and testing is performed throughout the year to ensure that athletes are not using them between competitions.
- Prohibited In Competition: This list includes stimulants, narcotics, cannabis, and some anti-inflammatory medications. Athletes are tested for these immediately after competitions.
- Prohibited In Particular Sports: The only category in this list is beta-blockers. Sports that require calmness and stillness, such as archery, ban beta-blockers. The primary use of these drugs is to reduce your blood pressure. Lowering the blood pressure of a fit athlete has the effect of calming the physical symptoms of anxiety.
There are hundreds of specific substances on these lists. WADA continuously monitors the environment and updates the lists regularly whenever new substances are invented, or when changes to our understanding of existing substances are needed.
Because some of the substances on the list can be medically necessary for some people, athletes can submit a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). These exemptions require proof that the athlete suffers from a medical condition in which a listed substance is the only available treatment.
Testing and Whereabouts Systems
International regulatory bodies such as World Athletics are responsible for administering testing for international competitions. National competitions are run by the anti-doping agencies within each country. The processes are straightforward – samples are collected under the observation of the regulator and are analyzed at a laboratory. Athletes need a clean result in order to participate in the competition.
Out-of-competition testing is much more difficult to administer. Several substances can be abused during the year to increase performance or muscle mass, but would then be out of the athlete’s system by the competition. The drugs may be gone but their performance-enhancing impacts would still be there. In order to test athletes at any time during the year, regulators require them to track their physical location in a system. This is done so that the tester can find and administer a test at any given moment, even if the athlete has traveled internationally.
WADA also developed the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP). Wada states: “The fundamental principle of the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) is to monitor selected biological variables over time that indirectly reveal the effects of doping rather than attempting to detect the doping substance or method itself.” This means that instead of testing each athlete in a competition for hundreds of substances each time, athletes that undergo regular monitoring can avoid that requirement by utilizing the ABP.
There is some resistance to the ABP concept, for fear that anecdotal data could be used unfairly or incorrectly, but the potential for broader health systems to contribute to keeping drugs out of sports is huge.
Burden of Proof
The regulating authority has the burden of proof in any alleged doping violations. In order to maintain fairness and consistency, this means that the rules need to be standardized and agreed upon by all parties involved. A doping allegation cannot be made based on a test result unless there are firm and clear rules in place.
This may seem overly analytical, but because of the seriousness of a doping allegation, and the impact that an unfounded allegation or incorrect test result can have on an athlete’s career, it is critical to have agreed-upon standards. Only then can an athlete be accused of violating the rules.
Keep in mind that more rules can be broken beyond the test results themselves. Failure to comply with whereabouts requirements, failure to show up for a test, or any other number of infractions can cause an athlete to violate anti-doping policies. Therefore, the rules must be crystal clear for all athletes to follow.
Athletes can appeal decisions that are made against them. Appeals can also be initiated by the regulating body like World Athletics, WADA, or other involved parties in a case. Appeals are made through the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) situated in . The rules and processes for initiating an appeal are very detailed. Like any legal appeal, the process can only be initiated if the person or party initiating the appeal feels that there is something that went wrong during the initial process. They must have evidence or arguments as to why the decision was wrong, they cannot appeal simply because they didn’t like the decision they received.
Sanctions are the periods of ineligibility athletes receive once they have been found in violation of doping rules. The length of the sanction can vary based on the sport, the type of substance, and the number of offenses. If an athlete has repeat offenses, they can receive a permanent sanction.
There are several other areas of punishment that come from doping. Any prize money that was won by an athlete found guilty at a later stage, if the later stage was close to the date that the prize was won, has to be returned. Records are stripped from athletes if they are found to have been in violation at the time the event was run.
The full implications of a doping accusation can be felt outside of the administrative process as well. Once an athlete tests positive for a banned substance, they will have a difficult time coming back from that. Therefore, keep it clean and you’ll never have to worry about these kinds of problems!
Doping and anti-doping measures have caused several scandals in running. Because there are so many different substances available, testing methods and technology need to continually morph to keep ahead of the threats to the sport. This means that anti-doping policies have not stopped the use of performance-enhancing substances completely. The people that create the substances keep finding ways to avoid the regulators. Doping has also been weaponized to hurt athletes’ reputations regardless of the validity of the claims. Let’s look at a few of the most notable cases and their impacts.Dieter Baumann
Dieter Baumann ran for Germany in the 1990s. He had a successful career which included a Gold Medal at the 1992 Olympics in the 5000-meter event. He also took Silver in the 1988 Olympics in the same event.
In 1999, during testing that would impact the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Baumann tested positive for Nandrolone, a type of anabolic steroid. He received a two-year sanction and missed the event.
He maintained his innocence and claimed that the substance was being added to his toothpaste by a competitor or other party that wanted to sabotage his career. He appealed the decision against him using this defense, but ultimately lost. There were some interesting arguments for his side, such as how the levels in his system fluctuated a lot throughout the day, and that the amount found in his system wasn’t considered useful for performance. These arguments were not enough to overturn the findings, because there is no allowable threshold identified for any of the anabolic steroids. Baumann was also unable to come up with a suspect that would have gone to such great lengths to poison his toothpaste.
This incident and its unique defense are interesting in that either the anti-doping policies achieved their goal of keeping doping out of sports, or those same policies were manipulated by someone in order to impact a fair competition. It is worth noting that Baumann came back from his sanction. After he was able to re-enter the sport, he won a Silver medal in the 2002 European Championships in Munich in the 10,000m event.Marion Jones/BALCO Scandal
Marion Jones was one of the most decorated female runners in the United States. She won five medals in the 2000 Olympics in various track and field events including the 100m and 200m races.
BALCO refers to the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative. During a federal investigation in 2002, the laboratory was found to have supplied several elite athletes with steroids. An anonymous tipster, later identified as Jones’s coach Trevor Graham, sent the investigators a syringe from the laboratory which held the substance THG. At the time, THG was unknown to anti-doping testers and therefore wasn’t detected in their regular testing processes. Graham sending the unknown substance to the investigators got them to involve the right people to identify the substance.
One of the most prominent customers of BALCO was Marion Jones. She claimed innocence at first, but later recanted and admitted that she lied to investigators during the BALCO investigation. As a result, her medals were stripped from her. She then descended into financial and personal troubles as well.
Jones’s ex-husband C.J. Hunter, a shot-putter, and her partner Tim Montgomery, a 100m sprinter, were also implicated in the BALCO scandal. Although Jones admitted to lying, she maintained that she was unaware that she was ingesting illegal substances. She claimed that she thought her coach was giving her a flaxseed supplement.
This case shows us how deep the steroid industry has to go in order to create new substances that will outsmart the testing performed by athletics regulators. Even though THG wasn’t picked up in some original tests, once the substance was identified, athletes could be found guilty of doping retroactively. Instead of barring them from competing, they have to surrender their medals if found guilty retroactively.
The sportsmanship component of this is drastic. If someone surrenders a medal months after a competition, the organizers will award the medal to the next qualifying finisher. That means someone will miss out on their podium moment. They will miss the financial and career lifts that come from a prominent win. Cheating doesn’t just take from the sport, it impacts the athletes that are competing fairly as well.Galen Rupp
Galen Rupp is an American runner who has never failed a drug test. He is a distance runner who is one of the few Americans to have won a marathon major (, 2017). He also took the Bronze at the marathon in the 2016 Olympics.
Rupp is included in this list of notable cases because he is an example of the stigma that can be attached to doping practices and anti-doping efforts. While never formally charged or found guilty, Rupp exists under the shadow of the actions of his coach and other associates.
Rupp’s former training group, the Nike Oregon Project, as well as his former coach, Alberto Salazar, were at the center of investigations that resulted in Salazar receiving a multi-year ban. Salazar was found to have improperly used testosterone and L-carnitine. He also had charges of tampering with the testing process. The findings were large-scale and appeared to be problematic throughout the Oregon Project.
While Rupp was never formally accused, and never proven to have engaged in any performance-enhancing substance, his extremely close relationship with Salazar has put a cloud over his head that has followed him throughout his career. Salazar was proven guilty of perpetuating several types of misconduct, and Rupp was the star of his roster.
This shows that anti-doping policies need to be extremely clear about their rules and expectations. Athletes also have to be spotlessly clean not only in their results but also in their associations. It is not enough to just test negative. The court of opinion also has an impact on an athlete’s career.