Tag Archives: doping

“A flickering flame: is the Olympics ideal dead?” My contribution to BBC World Service Newshour Extra

This BBC Newshourextra episode was broadcast on July 29th/20th/31st.

You can download the podcast (mp3) here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04263n3flickering flame

“The important thing in life is not to win but to take part, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well”. So said the founder of the modern Olympic movement, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, at the end of the 19th Century. How does his noble ideal fit with the modern phenomena of professionalism, doping, individual financial gain, nationalistic pride, huge corporate sponsorship? Is the Olympic ideal still alive? In this week’s edition of the programme, as the Rio Games approach, join Owen Bennett Jones and his guests as they discuss the present and future of the Olympics”.


Andrew Steele – British Olympic 400m athlete at Beijing 2008 games

David Goldblatt – Author of The Games: A Global History of the Olympics

Dr Silvia Camporesi – Lecturer in Bioethics and Society at King’s College London.

Professor Andy Miah – Chair in Science, Communication & Future Media at the University of Salford

Pat Myhill – Director of Operations for the UK Anti-Doping agency, UKAD

Sponsors should be held responsible if their athletes dope

Camporesi S, & Knuckles JA  (2014). Shifting the burden of proof in doping: lessons from environmental sustainability applied to high-performance sport. Reflective Practice15(1), 106-118.

One of Lance Armstrong's former sponsors...

One of Lance Armstrong’s former sponsors…

In this paper, co-authored with James A. Knuckles, we analyse the role of incentives in high-performance sports, borrowing concepts from sustainability policies and applying them to the context of doping in sports. Professional athletes discount their future health in exchange for desired enhanced performances. In the same way, many industrialised societies discount future environmental health for short-term economic returns, jeopardising the future of the planet. We propose a solution to alter this discounting, by applying the lessons from environmental sustainability, which has long proposed shifting the burden of proof away from regulators in order to alter the practice of discounting the planet’s future health for current economic gains, to high-performance sports.

We argue that the burden of proof for doping should not rest on the athlete or the team of sports doctors, but should rest instead on the sponsors. Under this system, WADA would retain and strengthen its own testing, and impose severe penalties on the sponsors of any athlete found to be doping.

Only by making the companies accountable for the athletes they sponsor, can we de-link sponsorship money from a win-at-all-costs mentality in sports that in turn leads to doping, and subsequently to discounting the future health of the athlete.

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.