Revision of WADA Code: ‘Performance enhancing’ should be a necessary condition for inclusion in the Prohibited List

In light of the World Anti Doping Agency’s 2013 Code Revision process, in this paper, co-authored with Mike McNamee, we critically explore the applicability of two of three criteria used to determine whether a method or substance should be considered for their Prohibited List, namely its (potential) performance enhancing effects and its (potential) risk to the health of the athlete.

Italo Calvino

Italo Calvino

To do so, we compare two communities of human guinea pigs: (i) individuals who make a living out of serial participation in Phase 1 pharmacology trials; and (ii) elite athletes who engage in what is effectively ‘unregulated clinical research’ by using untested prohibited or non-prohibited performance enhancing substances and methods, alone or in combination.

In his collection of essays “Six memos for the next millennium” (1985), Italian essayist Italo Calvino spelled out six ‘values’ or qualities that he thought it was important to preserve in the transition to the next millennium: lightness, quickness, exactitude, multiplicity, visibility, and consistency. For Calvino, these values pertained to the realm of literature and writing, but their value and significance need not be thus limited. In particular, three of these six values analysed by Calvino, namely visibility, multiplicity, and consistency seem particularly apposite to our analysis of contemporary practices of participation in research in professional sport and pharmaceutical research, and it is through these lenses that we carry out our ethical analysis.

Our comparison sheds light on norms of research ethics that these practices exacerbate. We argue for the need to establish a proper governance framework to increase the accountability of these unregulated research practices in order to protect the human guinea pigs in elite sports contexts, and to establish reasonable grounds for the performance enhancing effects, and the risks to the health of the athlete, of the methods and substances that might justify their inclusion on the Prohibited List.

Camporesi S,  McNamee MJ (2014). Performance enhancement, elite athletes and anti doping governance: comparing human guinea pigs in pharmaceutical research and professional sportsPhilosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine9(1), 4.

The full paper, open access, can be read here.

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