Most people would be forgiven for thinking that by simply increasing the number of drug tests, more doping athletes will be caught. We are often asked how many tests are carried out in a particular sport or a particular year. The more tests, the greater the chance of catching cheats right?
Unfortunately it’s not as simple as that. In recent years the techniques used by those who consciously dope have evolved, and organisations such as UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) have had to evolve with them.
As Plato once said “a good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” Anti-doping is no longer a game focussed on test numbers. It’s about quality, not quantity.
Since its inception in 2009, UKAD has used its Intelligence and Investigations function to create an efficient and targeted approach to eliminate the issue at source, and it is aimed firmly at those who deliberately decide to dope.
In 2014, over 50% of anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) in the UK stemmed from one crucial factor – intelligence.
So what’s the big deal? Surely a doping athlete will be tested when they compete? Any professional athlete can reasonably expect to be tested before, during and after a major competition. But isn’t that in itself counter-intuitive to protecting clean sport? If an athlete expects to be tested, it is arguable that they would have to be extremely careless to be caught doping.
But that’s the beauty of intelligence-driven testing programmes – it eliminates predictability. It keeps the element of surprise by targeting our tests at the right time and the right place based on the information provided to us. It allows us to build a strong case before we even test an athlete. More importantly, it means we don’t have to solely rely on a positive test to prove someone is doping.
Whispers about a new designer drug; seizure of a batch of anabolic steroids from China; or even an ill-timed picture on Instagram – information like this from sources in and outside the sporting community allows UKAD to build a stronger, more efficient and quality anti-doping system as tests are carried out where they are needed most.
But it also supports a longer-term strategy which firmly targets the supply chain and not just the end user. It helps us to understand new techniques and shape our analysis, or develop new technology and allows us to retrospectively test stored samples for specific substances. By sharing information with law enforcement partners, we can start to build a picture of how serious performance enhancing drugs, such as steroids or hgH, are moved or imported around the country.
But this isn’t just a UKAD strategy; it’s one which is reflected, and shared, all over the globe. When the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code came into force on 1 January 2015, it became mandatory that all anti-doping organisations should implement intelligence and investigations alongside their testing programmes. WADA has recognised its importance and placed intelligence functions firmly at the heart of the fight.
In recent weeks Sir Craig Reedie, President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), said: “evidence-based, ‘non-analytical’ rule violations are possible; in fact many of the highest profile doping cases over the years have proved to be non-analytical.” Lance Armstrong is probably the most famous example in history. The entire case against him was based on intelligence and witness statements.
This ethos is reflected in the 2015 Code as there are now 10 ADRVs which can result in a ban. These include attempted use of a prohibited substance; possession of a prohibited substance; trafficking of a prohibited substance; or attempted administration of a prohibited substance.
On their own, testing and intelligence won’t solve the doping problem in sport. But by working hand-in-hand, they are at the heart of the global mission to protect clean sport.
If you have a concern that doping is taking place, share your concerns, in confidence, with UKAD. To talk to a highly-trained operator 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, call 08000 32 23 32. If you’d prefer not to speak to anyone, report your concerns online.