Andy Dykstra, MJIL

Doping continues to be a problem in sports. In recent years, sports such as cycling and baseball have had their reputations damaged by doping scandals. Doping in certain sports is so prevalent that it is hard to believe the authorities of the sport did not know that it was taking place. As the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro approach, doping once again has made headlines.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (“WADA”) recently filed a 323-page report that alleges that Russia has engaged in state-sponsored doping to help its track and field athletes improve their performance.[1] Dick Pound, chairman of the WADA committee who filed the report, said, “It’s worse than we thought. We found cover-ups, we found destruction of samples, we found payments of money in order to conceal doping tests.”[2] The WADA has recommended that Russia be banned from the 2016 Olympics.

Although this recommendation has not been accepted, international track’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (“IAAF”), voted 22-1 to indefinitely suspend Russia’s athletic federation.[3] The International Olympic Committee, however, has said that Russia’s track and field athletes may still compete in the 2016 Olympic Games if Russia significantly reforms its anti-doping program before then.

Russia’s track and field doping highlights a common problem underlying doping scandals: typically those administering the programs are not independent and often “look the other way.” This is alleged in the WADA’s report about Russia. The WADA’s report alleges, “Among highly placed members and officials of the IAAF, there existed a consistent disregard for ethical behavior and a conspiracy to conduct and conceal corrupt behavior.”[4]  This is problematic because the IAAF is the organization in charge of drug testing.

Another major problem with anti-doping is the hierarchy of decision-makers. The WADA does not actually have any enforcement power and often does not have enough resources to administer drug tests or to run labs. The power to conduct drug tests and enforce violations is in the hands of the IAAF, the same organization who is alleged to have helped conceal Russia’s doping.

Doping can severely undermine the reputation of not only the athletes, but also of the entire sport. The WADA’s report is shocking, but hopefully will start a conversation about how a “broken” anti-doping system can be fixed.


[1] Matthew Futterman, Sara Germano & Paul Stonne, Anti-Doping Commission Finds Russia Engaged in State-Sponsored Doping, Wall St. J. (Nov. 9, 2015), http://www. wsj. com/articles/anti-doping-commission-finds-russia-engaged-in-state-sponsored-doping-1447082047.

[2] Id.

[3] Matthew Futterman, Call To Expand Probe into Russian Doping, Wall St. J. (Nov. 18, 2015), http://www.wsj.com/articles/call-to-expand-probe-into-russian-doping-

[4] Futterman, Germano & Stonne, supra note 1.