Select Committee on Science and Technology Second Report

2  Background

Sport in the UK


12. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is responsible for Government policy on sport. The DCMS website states that the Department's aim is "to encourage wider participation in sport, helping to create a more active nation and improve performance" and that their vision is that the UK be "re-established as a powerhouse in the sporting world".[5]

13. DCMS provides significant funding for sports provision and improving the quantity and quality of sporting opportunities. The Department aims to support equality in sport, community sport (for example, through funding of community sports clubs and skills training for coaches, trainers and teachers of sports) and professional sport (for example, through working with National Governing Bodies of sports [see below] to make sure that the interests of professional sport are well represented within Government). DCMS also committed over £1 billion during 2001-06 to the development of sports facilities, such as the new Wembley Stadium project.


14. UK Sport was established by Royal Charter in 1996 and is principally funded by, and accountable to, the DCMS. UK Sport co-ordinates sport policy and the support of elite sport at the UK level and manages and distributes public investment in sport. Of specific relevance to this inquiry, UK Sport is also responsible for the UK anti-doping programme.[6] The main responsibilities outlined by UK Sport's Royal Charter are to:

i.  encourage and develop higher standards of sporting excellence in the UK;

ii.  identify sporting policies that should have a UK-wide application;

iii.  identify areas of unnecessary duplication, overlap and waste in the way that sport is administered in the UK;

iv.  develop and deliver appropriate grant programmes developed by the sport governing bodies with a UK or Great Britain remit in conjunction with the Home Country Sports Councils;

v.  distribute Lottery funds to UK-level sports with World Class Performance Plans in place;

vi.  oversee policy on sports science, sports medicine, drug control, coaching and other areas where there may be a need for the Home Country Sports Councils to deliver a consistent UK-wide policy;

vii.  co-ordinate policy for bringing major international sporting events to the UK and use Lottery funds to support the bidding and staging process; and

viii.  represent the UK internationally and increase the influence of the UK at an international level.[7]


15. While UK Sport operates at a UK level, the responsibility for developing sport on a home country basis, including the development of excellence and the provision of facilities, falls to the Home Country Sports Councils for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. UK Sport takes a lead among the Sports Councils in all aspects of sport that requires strategic planning, administration and co-ordination. UK Sport also acts as the representative for the Sports Councils in matters of national benefit. [8]


16. There is an enormous network of sports clubs throughout the UK, each of which is administered through the national governing body (NGB) for its sport. NGBs are the central point for a sport and the main support mechanism for athletes in a particular sport. They provide the link between recreation and development, training and competition and are involved in development of facilities and policy in the relevant sport. NGBs are also responsible for representing their members' interests to their sport's international federation and for establishing the rules for the sport or sports in conjunction with them. NGBs work closely with the Sports Councils and organisations such as the British Olympic Association in the co-ordination of team selection and preparation for international events.

17. NGBs sign up to the rules of the UK anti-doping programme and are responsible for investigating doping offences once a positive test result (for a banned substance) has been identified. NGBs are also responsible for the application of sanctions to athletes found guilty of doping offences.[9]


18. The English Institute of Sport (EIS), funded by the UK Sport Lottery fund, is a nationwide network of world class support services, designed to foster the talents of the UK's elite athletes. Services are offered from nine regional multi-sport hub sites and a network of satellite centres. The range of services supplied by the EIS spans sports science and sports medicine. Support includes applied physiology, biomechanics, medical consultation, medical screening, nutritional advice, performance analysis, psychology, podiatry, strength and conditioning coaching, sports massage and sports vision. There are almost 2,000 competitors currently in the EIS system.[10]

Anti-doping programmes


19. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is the supreme authority of the Olympic Movement. It is an international non-governmental non-profit organisation and the umbrella organisation of the Olympic Movement. Its primary responsibility is to supervise the organisation of the summer and winter Olympic Games and its role is to promote top-level sport as well as sport for all in accordance with the Olympic Charter.

20. Doping at the Olympic Games is banned for two reasons, according to the Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code: first, the use of drugs is considered cheating, and second, drugs have adverse effects on the health of athletes.[11] Testing for drugs used to enhance performance has been carried out at the Olympic Games since they were held in Mexico in 1968, when Australia's Ron Clarke became the first athlete to be tested.[12] The IOC takes responsibility for determining Olympic testing programmes for doping. During the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002, the IOC worked with the WADA and national anti-doping bodies to ensure that 100 per cent of athletes were tested prior to attending the games, and it conducted testing of the top four athletes in an event and random testing throughout the duration of the games.[13] The Turin 2006 Winter Olympics saw an overall increase of 72 per cent tests conducted when compared with Salt Lake City, with 838 urine tests (compared to 700 in Salt Lake City) and 362 blood tests (new compared to Salt Lake City).[14]


21. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was created in 1999 to promote, co-ordinate, and monitor at the international level the fight against doping in sport in all its forms. WADA seeks to uphold a doping-free culture in sport and it combines the resources of sports and governments to "enhance, supplement, and co-ordinate existing efforts to educate athletes about the harms of doping, reinforce the ideal of fair play, and sanction those who cheat themselves and their sport".[15] As a mechanism for promoting a doping-free culture, WADA fosters the development of national anti-doping programmes and organisations.

22. WADA received its first two years of funding (US $18.3 million) from the IOC on behalf of the Olympic Movement and is currently funded equally by the IOC and national governments. In 2006, the UK contributed US $647,531 to WADA within the total European contribution of US $4,911,586.[16]

23. WADA's key activities include:

i.  monitoring acceptance of and compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code;

ii.  educating athletes through the athlete outreach programme;

iii.  providing anti-doping education to athletes, coaches, and administrators;

iv.  funding scientific research to develop new detection methods;

v.  conducting unannounced out-of-competition doping control among elite athletes;

vi.  observing the doping control and results management programmes of major events;

vii.  fostering the development of National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) and of anti-doping programmes;

viii.  accreditation of the laboratories in charge of the analysis of samples;

ix.  the preparation and review of the annual List of Prohibited Substances and Methods; and

x.  the implementation of ADAMS (Anti-Doping Administration & Management System), a web-based database management system that co-ordinates anti-doping activities and helps stakeholders meet their responsibilities under the Code.[17]

The WADA Code

24. The WADA Code, which was adopted in March 2003, is the universal document upon which the WADA programme is based. The Code adheres to the fundamental WADA principle that doping is contrary to the "spirit of sport".[18] WADA interprets the term "spirit of sport" as "the essence of Olympism and how we play true". The WADA Code also states that the spirit of sport is the "celebration of the human spirit, body and mind" and that it is characterised by a number of values including: ethics, fair play and honesty, health, dedication and commitment and respect for laws and rules.[19]

25. The purpose of the WADA Code is to advance anti-doping effort through universal harmonisation of core anti-doping elements. The Code clarifies the responsibilities of stakeholders and brings harmonisation where rules or policies vary between different sports and countries. For example, the organisations that sign up to the Code have to accept the WADA List of Prohibited Substances and Methods. Under the Code, WADA has the power to conduct testing and closely monitors doping cases.

The Prohibited List

26. The Prohibited List is an international standard which identifies substances and methods prohibited in competition, out of competition, and in particular sports. Substances and methods are classified by categories, for example as steroids, stimulants or for potential use in gene doping.[20] The List is broken down into sub-lists which indicate: substances and methods prohibited at all times (in and out of competition); substances and methods specifically prohibited in competition (such as amphetamine); and those prohibited in particular sports, for example, alcohol which is prohibited in a number of sports including archery, motorcycling and karate.[21]

27. Some of the substances featured on the WADA List are also controlled substances under UK legislation (Misuse of Drugs Act 1971) but their inclusion on the list is determined by a judgement by WADA of whether two out of the three following criteria apply:

  • the substance or method enhances or has the potential to enhance sporting performance;
  • the use of the substance or method represents an actual or potential health risk to the athlete;
  • the use of the substance or method violates the spirit of sport described in the introduction to the Code.

A substance or method is also banned if it has the potential to mask the use of other Prohibited Substances and Prohibited Methods.[22]

Therapeutic Use Exemptions

28. There are occasions when athletes need to take prohibited substances for the legitimate treatment of medical conditions. The WADA Code therefore permits athletes and their physicians to apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) which gives permission for an athlete to use, for therapeutic purposes, any of the substances or methods contained in the List of Prohibited Substances and Methods. The criteria for granting a TUE are as follows:

  • the athlete would experience significant health problems without using the prohibited substance or method;
  • the therapeutic use of the substance would not produce significant enhancement of performance; and
  • there is no reasonable therapeutic alternative to the use of the otherwise prohibited substance or method.[23]

29. WADA has developed an international standard for TUE to ensure that the process of granting therapeutic use exemptions is harmonized across sports and countries. The international standard for TUE includes criteria for granting a TUE, confidentiality of information and the TUE application process.[24]

30. In the UK, a TUE is granted by either the International Federation for a sport or UK Sport (as the National Anti-Doping Agency) who are then obliged to inform WADA so that it may have the opportunity to review this decision. WADA has two main roles in the TUE process. First, WADA reserves the right to monitor and review any TUE granted by a federation or anti-doping agency, and athletes who requested a TUE and were denied can ask WADA to review that decision. If WADA determines that a denial of the TUE did not comply with the International Standard, the Agency can reverse the decision. Secondly, WADA has powers of intervention in ensuring that TUEs are consistently granted. During the Olympics, the IOC Medical Commission appoints a Therapeutic Use Exemption Committee (TUEC) to assess each TUE application.[25]

31. Athletes may apply for either a standard or an abbreviated TUE. A standard TUE must be supported by medical records or reports proving that the athlete has the determined condition and requires medication on the Prohibited List. An abbreviated TUE application form does not require such documentation and is only for the use of glucocorticosteroids by non-systemic routes (local routes of administration [for example, an inhaler] other than dermatological applications, which are not prohibited and do not require any TUE) and beta-2 agonists, for example, the asthma drug salbutamol which is taken by inhalation.[26]

WADA testing programme

32. WADA runs a worldwide out-of-competition testing programme, focused on elite athletes, which complements national testing programmes. Since out-of-competition tests can be conducted anytime, anywhere, and without notice to athletes, WADA considers that they are the most effective means of deterrence and detection of doping.[27] WADA also participates in a taskforce with the IOC and the relevant Olympic Games Organizing Committee to ensure effective testing prior to and during the Games.[28]

The UNESCO Convention

33. Signatories to the WADA Code must make sure that their own rules and policies are in compliance with the mandatory articles and other principles of the Code. However, since governments cannot be legally bound by a non-governmental document such as the Code, an International Convention under UNESCO (the United Nations body responsible for education, science, and culture) was drafted to allow formal acceptance of both WADA and the Code. The UNESCO-led International Convention against Doping in Sport was subsequently adopted by the 33rd UNESCO General Conference in Paris in October 2005[29] and 30 nations have now signed up.[30]

UK anti-doping policy


34. UK Sport is the UK's recognised National Anti-Doping Organisation and as such, is responsible for the planning, collection and management of anti-doping controls in this country. With the support and backing of the DCMS, UK Sport has developed a national anti-doping policy for the UK.[31] The UK's national anti-doping policy sets out UK Sport's commitment to the WADA Code, and outlines the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved in the anti-doping process. Fundamental to the UK anti-doping policy, and in line with the WADA Code, is the UK Sport-held principle that "doping in sport is cheating" and "contrary to the spirit of sport".[32] The principal aim of the policy is "to protect an athlete's fundamental right to participate in doping-free sport and thus promote health, fairness and equality for athletes in the UK".[33] The UK Sport Policy is applicable to all sports which receive funding from either UK Sport or one of the home country sports councils. Through the Policy, UK Sport aims to:

i.  protect athletes and other participants in sport in the UK;

ii.  promote doping-free sport in the UK;

iii.  establish consistent standards of anti-doping policy, testing and education across the UK; and

iv.  encourage and build upon national and international harmonisation of anti-doping in sport.[34]

35. The UK anti-doping policy is accompanied by a set of Model Rules which provide detail on specific aspects of the anti-doping programme, including testing, results management, disciplinary hearings and sanctions. They also set out in detail the provisions for implementing the Code and the UK anti-doping programme requirements.[35]

36. UK Sport manages UK anti-doping activities through its 'Drug-Free Sport' programme which had a budget of approximately £2.2 million for the period 2005 - 06. Under this programme, UK Sport oversees anti-doping education for athletes and a drug information database which enables athletes and support staff to check whether or not pharmaceutical products contain prohibited substances.[36]

UK Sport testing programme

37. UK Sport also manages the UK's drug testing programme which aims to:

  • ensure that a minimum of 7,000 tests are conducted over the period 2006-07, all of which will be carried out in line with the standards set out in the WADA Code;[37]
  • ensure that at least 55 per cent of tests across all sports are no notice, out-of-competition tests;[38]
  • progress the development of an 'intelligent testing' regime to govern appropriate allocation of testing across all sports.[39]

38. All testing takes place at no notice to the competitor and UK Sport selects events and training sessions to be tested based on recommendations made by the national governing bodies. Testing is weighted against a number of criteria, including whether there is a history of doping in the sport; the international status of the sport (Olympic, Commonwealth); the potential for drug misuse in the sport; and the public/media impact of a doping infraction in that sport.[40] Testing is targeted towards the elite competitive level of a sport and includes athletes named on the national and international athlete pool. Testing at elite youth level is also conducted.[41]

39. UK Sport conducts most of its testing 'out of competition'. UK Sport told us that "over 50 per cent of all tests UK Sport conducts are now out-of-competition tests", with the allocation of these being increasingly governed through the concept of 'intelligent testing'. The term 'intelligent testing' refers to a focus on testing in association with key triggers within athletes' performance and training cycles, identifying areas of 'maximum risk' of potential doping. This could include, for example, athletes returning from injury or preparing for major events. Through intelligent testing, UK Sport claims that it is able to "maximise the deterrent effects of the programme".[42]

40. UK Sport trains independent Doping Control Officers (DCOs) to take either blood or urine samples from athletes. All samples, whether taken by UK Sport or WADA, are analysed at WADA-accredited laboratories. The UK currently has two WADA-accredited laboratories: The Drug Control Centre based at King's College London and the Drug Surveillance Group, HFL Ltd, Newmarket.

41. During testing, two samples (A and B) are taken for analysis. Following laboratory analysis of the A-sample, if no prohibited substances are found, a negative result will be reported to the relevant governing body or international sports federation and the B-sample destroyed. This report is usually available within 10 days of the sample collection (although, if required, results can be made available within 24 hours during a major competition). If the sample is positive, the process to deal with adverse findings falls into three stages: Review, Hearing and Appeal. The athlete may also request testing of the B sample where a positive result has been found.

Disputes in doping cases

42. Legal disputes in cases of doping are resolved through the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). CAS was originally conceived by then IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch to deal with disputes arising during the Olympics and, although established as part of the IOC in 1984, it is now a fully independent body. CAS is an institution independent of any sports organisation, providing services to facilitate settlement of sports-related disputes either through arbitration or mediation, by means of procedural rules adapted to the specific needs of the sports world. CAS is placed under the administrative and financial authority of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS) and has nearly 300 arbitrators from 87 countries who have been chosen for their specialist knowledge of arbitration and sports law.[43]

The ethics of doping

43. WADA and UK Sport take a strong stance against doping, with the view that it is against the 'spirit of sport', a value characterised by ethics, fair play and honesty, health, dedication and commitment and respect for laws and rules.[44] UK Sport told us that "doping has no place in sport" and that they "do not believe that the values that sport is meant to represent are helped in any way by people engaging in doping practices".[45]

44. However, during the course of this inquiry, we heard the view expressed that doping is not in itself detrimental to sport. Professor Julian Savulescu from the University of Oxford told us that performance enhancement "is not against the spirit of sport" and that "there is no reason sport must remain purely a test of natural ability".[46] Furthermore, Professor Savulescu felt that anti-doping legislation should be removed "to permit safe performance enhancement".[47] In addition, when Members of the Committee attended the annual European College of Sports Science conference in Lausanne, we were interested to hear presentation of arguments that "the current anti-doping campaign reflects an erosion of reason that is caused by a growing fear of scientific progress"[48] and that a more "liberal stance towards doping" should be taken in general.[49]

45. The ethical debate is of particular interest when considering where the line should be drawn between what may be considered fair use of a mechanism for enhancing performance and what should be prohibited and thus classified as doping if used in sport. For example, whilst use of anabolic steroids which increase strength by encouraging muscle growth is banned, technologies such as eye laser therapy, used to dramatically enhance vision, are not. This is more than merely a philosophical question since the mechanism whereby the ethics of performance enhancement are taken into account by WADA and UK Sport is unclear. Whilst WADA have put in place an Ethics and Education Committee, the main role of this Committee appears to be in developing educational initiatives for athletes about the dangers and consequences of drug use in sports, as opposed to consideration of the ethics of doping or of the ethical arguments for listing certain items on the WADA Prohibited List.[50] We discuss this further below (see paragraph 62).

46. In addition, it is interesting that whilst WADA and UK Sport fund research, primarily into the detection of doping, we have found it difficult to track down sources of funding for research into the ethics of whether doping is problematic.[51] We believe that ethics are an important consideration in the fight against doping and are concerned that limited attempts are being made to address this issue. We recommend that UK Sport establish a Committee to examine the ethical aspects of doping in sport and advise WADA on possible changes to the consideration of ethical issues within its operations. We also believe that UK Sport and WADA should consider the case for funding research into the ethics of doping.

5 Back

6   "About UK Sport", Back

7   Doping Control Officer Handbook, Doping and Sport, Back

8   "Sport in the UK", Back

9   "Model Rules for National Governing Bodies", Back

10   "Who we are", Back

11   "Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code". Lausanne, Switzerland: International Olympic Committee, 1999. Back

12   "Drug testing at the Sydney Olympics, Medical Journal of Australia, Back

13, "Post Games Report, Salt Lake City", 8 February - 24 February 2002, IOC Medical Commission Back

14   "Torino 2006: figures on doping tests", Back

15   WADA Mission, Back

16   WADA, 2006 contributions, Back

17   WADA 'What is the code', Q and A on the Code: Back

18   The World Anti-Doping Code. Fundamental Rationale for the World Anti-Doping Code, Back

19   As above Back

20   The WADA 2006 Prohibited List , Back

21   As above Back

22   WADA Code, The Prohibited List, p15, Back

23   Therapeutic Use Exemptions, Back

24   International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions, Back

25   The International Olympic Committee Anti-Doping Rules applicable to the XX Olympic Winter Games in Turin, 2006, Back

26   Therapeutic Use Exemptions, Back

27   WADA Doping Control, Back

28   As above Back

29   Ev 61 Back

30   Q 322 Back

31   Ev 62 Back

32   The UK's National Anti-Doping Policy,, para 3 Back

33   As above, para 4 Back

34   The UK's National Anti-Doping Policy, Back

35   Model Rules for National Governing Bodies, Back

36 Back

37   UK Sport manifesto for 2006-07, Back

38   "Record number of tests in the past year", UK Sport press release, 24 April 2006, Back

39   As above Back

40   Doping Control Officer handbook, organising testing, Back

41   As above Back

42   Ev 60 Back

43   Court of Arbitration for Sport, Back

44   The World Anti-Doping Code. Fundamental Rationale for the World Anti-Doping Code, Back

45   Q 89 Back

46   Ev 80 Back

47   As above Back

48   What's wrong with anti-doping: some thoughts concerning the fear of modernity and erosion of reason, Professor Verner Moller, University of Southern Denmark. Abstract in conference proceedings. European College of Sports Science annual conference, Lausanne.  Back

49   What's wrong with gene doping: some slippery slopes arguments, Professor Mike McNamee, University of Southampton Back

50   Ethics and Education Committee Meeting Minutes, July 2005, Back

51   List of WADA supported research projects, Back

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Prepared 22 February 2007