You can help the fight against doping in sport

Runners make ready at the starting blocks

Over the past couple of years, a review of the World Anti-Doping Code has been undertaken involving extensive worldwide consultation with all stakeholders and signatories. The resulting proposed revisions to the Code will be ratified this November in South Africa. The newly revised Code will come into effect January 2015. 

During the consultation period, a number of events rocked the sporting world, most notably the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. One of the significant findings from the Armstrong case was the sophisticated network of athletes, coaches, trainers, doctors and others who were involved in aiding and abetting the doping program employed by members of the US Postal Service cycling team. This finding underlined what we have always known – athletes who dope, rarely, if ever, act alone. 

Why is it then that the overwhelming majority of doping violations are against athletes? I am not going to suggest that athletes are mere victims in the doping that takes place in sport. But I am going to suggest that if they rarely act alone, then those involved in supplying and enabling doping in sport, those involved in the so called "supply chain," are largely doing so with impunity. We need to do a much better job at turning off the tap that supplies doping substances and methods to athletes. We need to do a much better job at catching and punishing those in the supply chain. 

How do we do that? Well, much has been made of the importance of intelligence gathering to assist our testing efforts. And much has been made of the importance of carrying out investigations into doping using a number of channels. This includes obtaining information from Border Services Agencies on the importation of banned substances and obtaining information from drug enforcement agencies on drug busts and banned substances that may have been seized. Both sources usually include information on names of individuals involved in the illegal activities of importation and trafficking and perhaps more importantly, these sources contain information on who and where the banned substances were headed to. These sources are and will continue to be critically important in our fight against doping in sport.

But, perhaps there is a more immediate and valuable source of information, that up until now has gone largely untapped. That source is the athletes themselves. Who knows better, or at least knows where suspected doping may be happening, than the athletes themselves. Up until now athletes have been quiet. Have the athletes remained quiet because of a fear of reprisal from other athletes, or a misguided notion that providing information would be "snitching on" or "ratting out" their fellow athletes? Do we need an anonymous method to encourage athletes to provide this vital information?

The new World Anti-Doping Code will address this issue to a certain extent through the sanction reductions associated with the provision of information by athletes involved in doping (providing "substantial assistance"). This will encourage athletes engaged in doping to provide information on others involved, and particularly, those up the supply chain. But the new Code will not necessarily do anything to encourage clean athletes to share what they know or suspect. It is up to individual countries, their sports governing bodies and their national anti-doping agencies to come up with ways to do this.

To help create the right conditions for surfacing important information from the trenches of our sport system, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) has just launched the Report Doping Hotline (1-800-710-CCES). The CCES urges athletes, coaches, trainers, support personnel and others to use the new anonymous hotline if they have sensitive information they wish to share about doping activities. For more information about the Report Doping Hotline, visit