Problems at World Anti-Doping Agency will 'drive innocent athletes out of sport'

The current approach of the international agency responsible for fighting the use of drugs in sport will drive innocent athletes out of the Olympic Games, according to an article in the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was set up in 1999 by the International Olympic Committee and publishes the list of banned substances and monitors drug use in sport through random tests.

In a review of some of the practices and procedures used by WADA, a leading sports scientist from the USA and a top marathon coach from the UK have identified major problems that they believe will lead to innocent athletes paying the price for a flawed anti-doping system.

Key to their finding was a lack of scientific evidence and protocol at the heart of WADA's operations.

"Drug testing and classification should be a scientific affair, unfortunately WADA appears to have little to no understanding of the criteria for science," said Dr Brent Rushall from San Diego State University, a four-time Olympic Team psychologist for Canada, who co-wrote the article with Max Jones, a multiple age-group world-record holding runner who has studied the drugs in sport movement.

"The actions and scope of WADA are causes for grave concern for the anti-drugs in sport movement. It is inevitable that if WADA continues its practices, professional athletes will be driven out of the Olympic Games."

Problems identified by the authors include:

  • Substances included in WADA's banned list are based on speculation rather than scientific evidence
  • WADA's clandestine sample collection procedures appear to ignore basic scientific guidelines
  • The way WADA lists banned substances does not conform to usual scientific practice, leading to confusion for coaches and athletes

    The authors cite the hysteria surrounding Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) as an example of WADA's poor use of science.

  • Contact: Dr Brent Rushall
    University of Bath

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