Select Committee on Science and Technology Second Report

1  Introduction

The importance of sport

1. Sport is an important and economically significant industry in the UK. In March 2006, the Chancellor announced £200 million of public money for high performance sport through to 2012. This sum was to be added to the £60 million a year of public money already invested in UK Olympic and Paralympic success, and UK Sport indicated that another £100 million would be sought through private investment.[1] Over and above its economic importance, however, sport and sportspeople can have a strong influence over certain sections of society, particularly young people, inspiring new ambitions and setting examples of behaviour. Sport can also be important to the wider population, especially where success can contribute to general well-being and national pride. A good example of this is the winning of the UK bid to hold the 2012 Olympics in London, the first time the Olympics have been held in Britain since 1948.

Doping in sport

2. In sport, the term 'doping' refers to the use of performance-enhancing drugs which have been prohibited by sporting regulatory organizations. There have been many cases of doping in recent years. For example, in 2004, British cyclist David Millar was banned for two years after admitting using the banned hormone erythropoietin[2] and in July 2006, World and Olympic 100 metres champion Justin Gatlin admitted failing a drugs test for testosterone.[3] During the time-frame of this inquiry, we have heard of many further doping scandals, including that of Pakistani fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif who tested positive for the banned substance nandrolone.[4]

3. The prevalence of doping in sport has been attributed to a number of factors. Athletes are often under significant pressure to deliver medal-winning performances. They may also face team pressure where success is dependent on the performance of all. There are often significant financial gains to be made from success in many competitive sporting events. Other factors contributing to doping in sport might include a perception that other sportsmen and women are doping and getting away with it and that competition is imbalanced should an individual athlete choose not to go down the same route. Finally, the ease of availability of many prohibited substances may be an exacerbating factor.

4. There is a perfectly logical line of argument which suggests that the use of enhancement technologies to improve athletes' performance is no more than an extension of the training, nutrition and other regimes that are already deployed to this end. This, for some, points to total deregulation. For many more, the arguments against deregulation - that human enhancement techniques are potentially harmful to people, that they run completely counter to the "spirit" of sport and that they are essentially a form of cheating - carry much weight. Like most of those involved, we do not support deregulation of human enhancement technologies in sport, but for a system of regulation to be effective, it must meet certain clear criteria. It must be equitable, it must respect the fundamental human rights of those engaged in sporting activities, it must be proportionate to the dangers it seeks to avoid, it must be as scientifically unimpeachable as it is possible to be and it must be well-administered and properly funded. This Report seeks to examine whether the present system of regulation of human enhancement techniques in sport meets these tests.

The inquiry

5. On 1st March 2006 we launched our inquiry into the use of human enhancement technologies (HETs) in sport. We believe that it would be of major credit to the United Kingdom if the 2012 Olympic Games were remembered as a major sporting event in which doping did not detract from its success. We therefore set out to 'horizon-scan' future illegal HETs and to determine the UK's current arrangements for countering doping and its intentions for doing so during the 2012 Olympics. In addition, the Committee was keen to evaluate mechanisms by which UK athletes can be supported in their pursuit of sporting success, with particular interest in some of the legal mechanisms by which an athlete's performance may be enhanced.

6. Given the broad subject area, the Committee decided to limit the scope of this inquiry to HETs which may be used to enhance human performance through changes to human physiology, for example with use of biological or chemical techniques. Use of equipment in either Olympic or Paralympic sports was therefore considered to be outside the remit of the inquiry.

7. In our press release (no. 24 of Session 2005—06), the Committee invited evidence on the following points:

i) the potential for different HETs, including drugs, genetic modification and technological devices, to be used legally or otherwise for enhancing sporting performance, now and in the future;

ii) steps that could be taken to minimise the use of illegal HETs at the 2012 Olympics;

iii) the case, both scientific and ethical, for allowing the use of different HETs in sport and the role of the public, government and Parliament in influencing the regulatory framework for the use of HETs in sport; and

iv) the state of the UK research and skills base underpinning the development of new HETs, and technologies to facilitate their detection.

8. We launched this inquiry with a public seminar in which we heard from Mr Linford Christie OBE, Olympic gold medal winner and Dr Roger Palfreeman, British Cycling Medical Officer. We also heard from Professor Ron Maughan of Loughborough University, Mr Steve Maynard from HFL Ltd (a WADA-accredited testing laboratory) and Professor Julian Savulescu from the University of Oxford. ?

9. We held four oral evidence sessions, during which we heard from:

10. The transcripts of these sessions are published with this Report, together with the written submissions received in response to our call for evidence and requests for supplementary information.

11. In July 2006 members of the Committee attended the European College of Sports Science (ECSS) 2006 conference held in Lausanne. This visit gave us the opportunity to learn about use of HETs in sport and the surrounding ethical debate. The Committee also travelled to Australia where we met, amongst others, representatives from the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) and the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), the New South Wales Institute of Sport, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA), The Garvan Institute, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Sports Medicine Australia and parliamentary representatives, including the Australian Minister for Sport Rod Kemp MP. We also visited the Loughborough University and English Institute of Sport (EIS) to enable us to compare UK sports training facilities with those we saw in Australia and to take the opportunity to discuss some of the issues surrounding sports science with UK academics. We are grateful to all who helped organise these visits and contributed evidence to this inquiry. We would also like to place on record our thanks to our specialist adviser, Professor Ron Maughan from the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at Loughborough University.

UK Sport welcomes Budget Announcement, 22 March 2006, Back

2   "Millar in Doping Trial", 8 November 2006, The Daily Telegraph Back

3   "Gatlin admits failing drugs test", 29 July 2006, BBC Sport, Back

4   "Cricket bans divide the fans", 2 November 2006, BBC News South Asia, Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 22 February 2007