Drugs in Sport

Drugs in Sport         
Prepared by  Prepared by: Chris Hume and Christine May, Senior Research Consultants, Clearinghouse for Sport, Sport Australia
evaluated by  Evaluation by: Catherine Ordway, Anti-Doping Consultant (November 2017) 
Reviewed by  Reviewed by network: Australian Sport Information Network (AUSPIN)
Last updated  Last updated:  10 May 2019
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Anti-doping arrangements protect the integrity of sport and promote clean and fair competition. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is the peak international body responsible for leading the global effort to ensure sport is clean and fair.

Australian sporting organisation are responsible for managing the anti-doping rules for their sport and adopting and applying policies consistent with the WADA Code. Australian athletes rely on their sport’s anti-doping policy to protect their health, the integrity of the competition and their right to compete against clean athletes.

Sports participants (including athletes, coaches, administrators, officials, sport science and medical practitioners, and other support and service providers) engaging in organised sport in Australia are required to comply with anti-doping codes, policies and practices as a condition of their involvement. 

Key Messages 


The WADA Code establishes the standards and rules managing anti-doping operations internationally. Signatories who accept the Code, including International and National Olympic and Paralympic Committees, International Federations, and their affiliates at national level, are bound to implement and enforce the Code.


The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) is the Australian Government agency responsible for implementing an effective national anti-doping program in Australia that is consistent with international requirements and Australian legislation.


The use of certain performance enhancing drugs and methods in sport is prohibited. The WADA updates and publishes a 'Prohibited List', which is the international standard that outlines the substances and methods that are prohibited in sport.

The WADA Code (the Code) is the principal administrative instrument that sets the international standard for anti-doping policies, rules and regulations within sporting organisations and national anti-doping agencies. The Code also works to ensure there is a consistent approach among anti-doping agencies in its application and practice including testing protocols; laboratories; Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs); the List of Prohibited Substances and Methods; and, the protection of privacy and personal information.  

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) is responsible for implementing an effective anti-doping program within Australia, that is consistent with the Code and Australian laws. 

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was established in 1999 as an international independent agency composed and funded equally by the sport movement and governments of the world. One of its key activities is developing and monitoring the World Anti-Doping Code (Code); a document harmonizing anti-doping policies in all signatory sports and all countries. 

  • International Summit : Drugs in Sport : pure performance, Sydney Australia 14-17 November 1999 (IICGADS). In November 1999, an international drugs in sport summit was organised in Sydney. Attending were authorised government officials responsible for anti-doping within their national jurisdictions, participants came from 25 countries. In the Sydney Communiqué the participants “affirmed their commitment to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and its development towards an independent, transparent, and accountable agency that has broad support and respect among governments, intergovernmental organisations, as well as international and national sporting organisations, in particular athletes,...”
  • World Anti-Doping Code (2015). Current WADA Code which has been accepted by more than 660 sport organizations world-wide. A list of Code Signatories is available here
  • 2015 World Anti-Doping Code: November 2017 Amendments. In November 2017, following several months of stakeholder consultations, WADA’s Foundation Board adopted a limited number of Code amendments, as highlighted in this document, specifically related to Code Compliance. These amendments, which support the new International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories (ISCCS), will take effect at the same time as the ISCCS, on 1 April 2018. 

Anti-doping authorities (e.g. drug testing/monitoring, law enforcement) across the world are working toward fair competition in a doping-free environment. The global campaign, led by WADA is integrating scientific research, education, and athlete monitoring to protect the integrity of sport.

  • The evolution of doping: From the 1999 Lausanne Declaration to the 2015 new World Anti-doping Code. Atienza-Macias E, Lopez-Frias F and Perez-Trivino J, International Sports Law Review Pandektis, Volume 11, (2016). This article traces the stages through which anti-doping has progressed. It also focuses on the responses of different international sports institutions.
  • Justifying anti-doping: The fair opportunity principle and the biology of performance enhancement (PDF  - 327 KB). Loland S and Hoppeler H, European Journal of Sport Science, Volume 12, Issue 4, (2012). Doping is a complex moral and scientific dilemma. For a substance or method to be prohibited by WADA, these criteria are considered: (1) the substance or method has the potential to enhance sport performance; (2) the use of the substance or method represents an actual or potential health risk to the athlete; and (3) the use of the substance or method violates the “spirit of sport”. However, these criteria may not lend themselves to clear-cut interpretation. This paper takes a critical look at the rationale for anti-doping from both moral and scientific perspectives. 
  • Tackling Doping in Sport: removal of conflicts of interest is central. Andy Brown, Sport Integrity Initiative, (8 March 2017). The removal of conflicts of interest is central to the future of anti-doping, heard delegates attending day one of the Tackling Doping in Sport conference at Wembley. Speakers from the upper echelons of the world’s anti-doping organisations (ADOs) also warned against taking an “anglocentric” and condescending approach to anti-doping, as different countries take a different approach to anti-doping issues, including therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs).

Both deliberate and/or inadvertent use of prohibited drugs and methods carries significant consequences for athletes. There are many reasons why athletes and their support staff may choose to use banned substances or methods. Six common reasons are identified in the literature: (1) moral justification – where athletes find ways of thinking that doping is not that bad; (2) euphemistic labelling – athletes refer to drugs with other names; for example using ‘juice’ instead of steroids to avoid the stigma; (3) advantageous comparison – implying that it is acceptable to engage in certain high risk behaviour because the athletes is not engaging in other behaviours. For example saying it is 'ok' to take stimulants because you do not take steroids; (4) displacement of responsibilities – rationalising that “everyone else is doing it, so I have to”; (5) diffusion of responsibility – “if everyone is doing it, it must be right”; and (6) distortion of consequences – thinking that doping is not as bad as people say it is. 

  • Doping in SportSport Health, Volume 34, Issue 4, (March 2017). Dr Denis Hemphill identifies reasons athletes choose to dope and how harmful doping can be to athletes and their sport.
  • Why Do Athletes Take Drugs? David Mottram, ASPETAR, (September 2016). Athletes may take drugs for a variety of reasons. The principal reasons can be categorised as: therapeutic use for the treatment of medical conditions; social and ‘recreational’ use; and performance enhancement.

Following the creation of the Code in 2004, the international strategy to eradicate doping in sport has relied upon the acceptance, implementation, and enforcement of the Code by all signatories. When breaches of the Code are found (intentional or inadvertent) they can be adjudicated on, as per established protocols and procedures.

  • Challenges and threats to implementing the fight against doping in sport. Dvorak J, Saugy M and Pitsiladis Y, British Journal of Sport Medicine, Volume 48, Issue 10, (2014). The authors make the case that future efforts in the fight against doping should be heavily based upon preventive strategies such as: education, the analysis of data, and forensic intelligence.
  • Time for change: A roadmap to guide the implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code 2015. Dvorak J, Vaume N, Botre F, et.al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 48, Issue 10, (2014). A medical and scientific multidisciplinary consensus meeting was held in 2013 to create a roadmap for the implementation of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code. Key components of this strategy include: (1) sport-specific risk assessment; (2) prevalence measurement; (3) sport-specific test distribution plans; (4) storage and reanalysis; (5) analytical challenges; (6) forensic intelligence; (7) psychological approach to optimise the most deterrent effect; (8) the Athlete Biological Passport and confounding factors; (9) data management system; (10) education; (11) research needs and necessary advances; (12) inadvertent doping; and (13) management and ethics of biological data.

WADA and the Code

The Code presents a 'hard line' approach to drug use in sport. The use of illegal drugs or prohibited substances or methods is not tolerated and is complemented by a testing regime. Increasingly, intelligence gathering techniques are being used to investigate athletes and sports systems suspected of cheating. In addition, comprehensive education and awareness programs are used to make elite athletes (and the sporting community) more aware of the Code and the implications of violations of the Code.

Government compliance

Acceptance and implementation of the World Anti-Doping Program consists of three parts: (1) the WADA Code; (2) international standards; and (3) best practice and guidelines. Countries wishing to compete in international championships and the Olympic and Paralympic Games must agree to comply with the anti-doping program. WADA’s key responsibilities, in conjunction with National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) and sport partners (e.g., International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, international federations), include:

  1. code compliance monitoring;
  2. cooperation with law enforcement agencies;
  3. maintaining the prohibited list;
  4. leading research programs;
  5. coordination of the anti-doping management system;
  6. the development of anti-doping initiatives in regions where no NADO exists;
  7. maintenance of the International Standard for testing laboratories; and
  8. education and outreach activities. 

National governments also have responsibilities. The primary support of government toward their NADO is financial, but they are also encouraged to:

  • facilitate doping controls and support national testing programs;
  • use ‘best practice’ in labelling, marketing, and distribution of products that might contain items on the WADA prohibited substances list;
  • withhold financial support to persons or organisations engaged in or supporting doping;
  • take measures against the manufacture and trafficking of prohibited substances;
  • establish codes of conduct for professions related to sport anti-doping; and
  • fund anti-doping education and research.

While significant progress has been achieved in the past decade to remove doping from sport, a 'win at any cost' mentality continues to threaten the values of sport. 

  • Tackling Doping Seriously - Reforming the World Anti-Doping System after the Russian Scandal, Duval A, Policy Brief Number 2016-02, European University Institute, (1 September 2016). This paper aims at taking stock of the Russian state doping scandal and at proposing a way forward for a reform of the World Anti-Doping System. It points out the dramatic shortcoming of the World Anti-Doping Agency with regard to the compliance of signatories with the World Anti-Doping Code. To address this compliance issues, this policy brief advances five key general directions.
    1. Compliance – WADA’s focus must be on ensuring compliance with the Code.
    2. Funding – WADA needs to properly fund the scope of its activities.
    3. Transparency and responsiveness – WADA is not immune to poor governance. It must publish all individual compliance reports/audits and decisions at national and international level.
    4. Collaboration – the anti-doping effort must be a combination of ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ efforts.
    5. Transnational process – the implementation of the Code takes a very different reality in each national jurisdiction. 
  • Declaration of The IOC Executive Board - 12 Principles for a more robust and independent global anti-doping system to protect clean athletes, IOC media, (16 March 2017). Since October 2015, the Olympic Summit proposed an independent anti-doping testing and sanctioning system. In particular, after the publication of the interim report of Prof. McLaren in July 2016, a broad public debate started about the future of the WADA Anti-Doping System. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board emphasised that the Olympic Movement supports a more robust and independent anti-doping system.

WADA itself does not possess any disciplinary power over the athletes or the Sports Governing Bodies (SGBs). It is entirely dependent on the SGBs and the member nations to implement the Code. WADA’s influence relies upon the willingness of its signatory organisations to act on cases of non-compliance of the Code. The Russian doping scandal prior to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games has undoubtedly weakened the trust athletes have in a fair international anti-doping system. 

ASADA logoAustralian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) 

Australia is a signatory to the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport and is required to implement anti-doping arrangements in accordance with the principles of the Code. The Convention provides the legal framework for governments to address specific areas of the doping problem that are outside the sports domian. It helps to formalize global anti-doping rules, policies, and guidelines to provide an honest and equitable playing environment for all athletes.

Under the Code ASADA is the recognised National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) for Australia. They collaborate with WADA, international anti-doping organisations, and other stakeholders to further the Australian Government’s efforts to strengthen anti-doping practices nationally and globally.

The role and functions of ASADA are set out in the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Act 2006, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Regulations 2006and the National Anti-Doping (NAD) scheme. Broadly speaking their role is to:

  • Engage with stakeholders and strengthen internal and external relationships to build anti-doping capabilities and harden the environment against doping in sport.
  • Deter and minimise the risk of athletes doping through education, communication and testing.
  • Detect possible breaches of the Code and anti-doping rules through gathering intelligence, targeted testing, and investigation of possible breaches.
  • Enforce anti-doping rules through managing possible violations, presenting cases, and hearing appeals.

ASADA conducts investigations in accordance with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Framework (August 2017) and adopts procedures and processes consistent with the Australian Government Investigations Standards 2011. These Government regulations contain provisions that regulate the work ASADA does to protect the integrity of sport and the health of Australian athletes. ASADA is also subject to external scrutiny through judicial decisions, the Commonwealth Auditor-General, Parliamentary Committees, and Commonwealth Ombudsman reports.

Ultimately, all decisions made by ASADA, or an individual sport, can be reviewed by WADA or a relevant International Federation and then appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). 

Athlete compliance Athlete compliance 

Strict personal liability for whatever substance(s) an athlete takes into their body is a key principle of the Code.  

  • The Intersection between the FDA's Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act and the Anti-Doping Agency's regulation of banned substances for athletes. Arfmann S, Sports Lawyers Journal, (Spring 2013). This article reviews the case of US swimmer, Jessica Hardy, who qualified for the 2008 US Olympic Team, but was disqualified because of a positive drug test. Hardy tested positive for the anabolic agent clenbuterol, an ingredient in a dietary supplement she was taking. Hardy knew that there were risks in taking any dietary supplements, but she first researched WADA’s Prohibited List and thoroughly investigated the supplement's labelled ingredients before taking it. She even contacted the manufacturer to ensure the accuracy of the ingredients listed on the product label (i.e. clenbuterol was not listed). She consulted with a certified nutritionists familiar with the WADA's list about using the dietary supplement. However, such due diligence was not enough. Hardy tested positive and received a one-year sanction from the US Anti-Doping Agency. The punishment was upheld, even though the WADA-banned substance is not required to be on the manufacturer's ingredient list, as per government regulations under the FDA’s Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. Ultimately, athletes must be accountable for any substance they take into their body.
  • Social psychology of doping in sport: A mixed-studies narrative synthesis (PDF  - 4.4 MB). Backhouse S, Whitaker L, Patterson L, Erickson K and McKenna J, Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure, prepared for the World Anti-Doping Agency (2016). In the context of doping in sport, social science helps us to examine how and why athletes dope. This review aims to build on the findings of previous reviews by summarising the current evidence. It focuses on: (1) psychosocial correlates and predictors of doping in sport; (2) knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours towards anti-doping; (3) efficacy and effectiveness of anti-doping education programmes; and (4) doping specific models and theories. 212 peer-reviewed articles were reviewed. Consistent support was found for five main themes: (i) sport doping exists in a complex web of sociodemographic and psychosocial correlates and predictors; (ii) critical incidents, both within sport and beyond, increase doping vulnerability; (iii) social context and the role of reference groups – such as the coach, family, or peers – can facilitate and/or inhibit doping; (iv) there is a perception that the likelihood of doping detection is low, often combined with deep doubts about the legitimacy of the current detection-deterrence system; and (v) athletes’ and athlete support personnel’s exposure to formal anti-doping education appears insufficient and knowledge of anti-doping is moderate at best. Studies examining the effects of anti-doping education programmes remain scarce; on average only one study was published per year.

An important anti-doping compliance measure was the amendment of the Code in 2015 to allow urine and blood samples to be retested for up to 10 years. The date of sample collection defines the list of prohibited substances for any reanalysis. Nevertheless, it is important to know that for most categories of prohibited substances the list is considered open; that is, any other substances with a similar chemical structure or similar biological effect(s) will be analogously recognised as prohibited. For example, a designer steroid which was used in 2007 without being detectable by the anti-doping laboratory at the time of the competition could be potentially reported as a positive if detected in the stored samples when analysed in 2017. Long term storage of samples, and the duties of testing authorities and laboratories, can be summarised as follows: 

    1. Any sample may be placed in long-term storage for up to ten years. 
    2. The testing authority will retain the official doping control records for the duration of sample storage.
    3. The laboratory will retain all chain of custody documents for the duration of sample storage.
    4. If samples are to be stored at a location outside the secured area of the laboratory which first analysed the sample, the laboratory shall secure the A- samples to be shipped in a manner which ensures integrity and chain of custody of the sample. 
    5. During transport and long-term storage, samples shall be maintained at a temperature sufficient to maintain its analytical integrity.
    6. The long-term storage facility shall maintain security requirements comparable to the security requirements applicable to short-term storage facilities in a laboratory. 
    7. Samples held in long-term storage may be selected for reanalysis at the discretion of the testing authority or WADA.
    8. Further analysis on long-term stored samples shall proceed by taking all necessary precautions in order to preserve the quality of the analyses and the rights of the athlete. If the full initial testing and confirmation procedure is not completed on the A-sample, the testing authority shall appoint an independent witness to verify the opening and splitting of the sealed B-sample and then proceed to analysis based on the B-sample which has been split into 2 bottles.

  • Retesting the anti-doping samples: Best tool for deterrence? (PDF  - 104 KB). Kuuranne T and Saugy M, Swiss Sports & Exercise Medicine, Volume 64, Issue 3, (2016). This article discusses the implications of long-term storage of urine and blood samples and their reanalyses as a potentially important deterrent to drug use. As new drug detection test methods are developed, retesting may detect drug use that originally went undetected. 

WADA coordinates an independent observer program for major events such as the Olympic Games. Independent reports from these events can be accessed via the reports section of the WADA website.

Ultimately, all decisions made by national drug testing authorities and international sport governing bodies can be reviewed by WADA and then appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Education iconEducation

WADA's education activities primarily focus on the need to educate athletes about the dangers and consequences of doping. In addition, WADA has been actively engaging with the micro-society surrounding the athlete (e.g. athlete support personnel) and macro-societies surrounding sport in general (e.g. the media).

Some example of anti-doping education programs from WADA, International Federations and National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) include: 
  • ASADA Education. Education provided to individuals, groups and organisations to assist in managing their responsibilities under the anti-doping Code. ASADA’s e-Learning portal, which is open to the Australian sporting community, aims to provide everyone with the opportunity to learn about key areas of anti-doping
  • FIFA Doping Control – How it Works. An in-depth video about how FIFA works with players, doctors and doping control officers to maintain consistent and up-to-date testing procedures.
  • Global DRO. Athletes, check your medications! The Global Drug Reference Online (Global DRO) provides athletes and support personnel with information about the prohibited status of specific medications based on the current World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List. Global DRO does not contain information on, or that applies to, any dietary supplements.
  • UKAD Learning Zone. The Learning Zone is the place to learn about Clean Sport. This area supports early prevention when education programmes can help athletes and Athlete Support Personnel make the right decisions at the right time. Sign up now to register your interest and we will notify you when our new interactive courses and quizzes are launched.
  • WADA Education and Awareness. A variety of values-based education programs that assist in creating a strong anti-doping culture
  • WADA Digital Library. An online library of education and information tools.

EvidenceGathering evidence

Although we wish it were not the case, there are ways to evade doping detection. This is why intelligence sharing and non-analytical investigation will play an ever increasing role in the activities of the world’s anti-doping organisations. Eliminating doping from sport, and detection/prevention of the use of illegal drugs, is not just the responsibility of the sport sector. Law enforcement agencies (particularly when drugs are trafficked across borders) and government health and social service agencies are also involved. The Lance Armstrong case reinforced the need to investigate suspected doping activity using a range of information gathering sources.

  • WADA launches ''Speak Up!'' - A secure digital platform to report doping violationsWADA, (9 March 2017). The Agency encourages informants and whistle blowers to Speak Up! The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) launched Speak Up! , a new, secure digital platform intended for athletes and others to report: alleged Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) under the World Anti-Doping Code (Code); non-compliance violations under the Code; or, any act or omission that could undermine the fight against doping in sport.
  • Detecting Doping in Sport. Moston, S. & Engelberg, T, Routledge, (2017).This book explores the changing landscape of anti-doping investigations, which now largely centre on the collection of forensic intelligence about doping through processes such as interviews with witnesses and the interrogation of athletes. It examines why and how investigative processes, hitherto typically reserved for serious crimes, have been co-opted by anti-doping agencies into a situation where their potential role has received little or no critical consideration.
  • Statement From USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart Regarding the U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team Doping ConspiracyUSADA, (10 October 2012). The evidence that the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran a doping scheme is overwhelming. Over 1000 pages of sworn testimony from 26 people, including 15 riders with knowledge of the US Postal Service Team. The evidence also includes direct documentary evidence including financial payments, emails, scientific data, and laboratory test results that further confirm the use of doping substances and methods. 

SanctionsSanctions for doping offences

It is common to talk of a body of law called ‘Sports Law’, but in reality there is no unique body of law directed toward sport. Rather, participation in sport is regulated by internal rules which fall under the same laws that affect all actions and endeavours. In most countries the law impacts on the way sporting organisations operate in a number of ways: (1) legal standards are set for playing the sport in a way that is safe for participants and spectators; (2) the actions of sports people on and off the field can be subject to the criminal law; (3) sanctions for the use of performance enhancing or illicit drugs in sport; and (4) deciding contractual disputes between sports people and sporting organisations. The law does not infringe on the rules of the game; for example, a referee’s decision (i.e. in relation to a sporting contest) cannot be challenged in a court of law.

  • The spirit of sport: The case for criminalisation of doping in the UK. Sumner, C., International Sports Law Journal, Volume 16, Issue 3/4, (2017). This article examines public perceptions of doping in sport and critically evaluates the effectiveness of current anti-doping sanctions. The proposed criminalisation of doping in sport in the UK is part of a growing global movement towards such criminalisation at national level. Justification for such action is based on two grounds: (1) as a significant deterrent to drug use; and (2) as a form of punishment for breaching the ‘spirit of sport’, as defined by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The author argues the case that the current system of anti-doping sanctions are ineffective in reducing doping and that this results in the public’s loss of faith in the performances it sees and the loss of the ‘spirit of sport’.
  • Doping In Sport And The Law. Ulrich Haas and Deborah Healey, Bloomberry, (January 2017). This international legal and cross-disciplinary edited volume contains analysis of the legal impact of doping regulation by eminent and well known experts in the legal fields of sports doping regulation. Each of the 14 chapters addresses doping regulation from a legal perspective such as tort, corporate governance, employment law, human rights law, or a scientific area. Legal areas are generally considered from an international and not national perspective. Issues including fairness, logic and the likelihood of compliance are explored.
  • Penal and disciplinary liability entailed in doping in sport activities. Gkonta, A., International Sports Law Review Pandektis, Volume 11, (2016). This article examines the legal framework that allows sanctions aimed at deterring doping in sport; from the context of international and Greek legislation. The fundamental constitutional provisions and international conventions that govern the relevant sanction authority of the State as well as the general principles that apply are discussed. 
  • The legal status of disciplinary regulations in sport. van Kleef, R., The International Sports Law Journal, Volume 14, Issue 1, (2014). International and national sports organisations have created extensive regulatory frameworks to govern their activities. However, regulating sport within the context of criminal and civil law is not an easy task. This article provides a comparative and transnational overview of the main legal framework in which national and international sports organisations operate according to Dutch, English, French, German and Swiss law.

TUEs Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs)

The Therapeutic-Use Exemption (TUE) program is a necessary part of elite sport, as it gives athletes with legitimate medical reasons for taking a medication, an opportunity to compete.

Athletes, like all people, may have illnesses or conditions that require them to take a particular medication or undergo a certain medical procedure. When these medications appear on WADA’s List of Prohibited Substances and Methods a TUE must be granted prior to its use. The athlete must apply for a TUE and provide supporting medical evidence; WADA then gives permission to take a substance or use a therapeutic method. TUEs are granted following a robust review process that includes evaluation by three physicians specialised in sports medicine and/or other relevant specialities.

Critics of the TUE system say that it’s open to abuse from athletes and supporting medical staff. Athletes may apply for a TUE who don’t really need the medication for legitimate purposes, but use the medication to gain a performance advantage. 


Nutritional supplements cover a broad range of products including vitamins, minerals, herbs, nutritional supplements, natural foods, and other products used to boost the nutritional content of one’s diet. Many supplements also claim to aid recovery from training or injury, build muscle mass, or enhance performance.

Controlling the content and quality of nutritional supplement is handled differently in each country. In some jurisdictions supplements are regulated/controlled by legislation covering food; some jurisdictions regulate supplements as ‘medicines or drugs’; and some have little or no regulation. Because many products can be ordered on the internet and sent anywhere in the world, country of origin and country of distribution/use may not be the same. Therefore, regulation over ingredients (and their disclosure) as well as manufacturing quality and purity may become blurred. 

Athletes who take supplements risk committing an anti-doping rule violation if prohibited substances are present. There is no distinction between deliberate or accidental use of a prohibited substance in the WADA Code. However, in some cases of accidental use the athlete may receive a favourable appeal. For example, the athlete may not be expected to know if traces of steroid were contained in ingested meat. The strict liability principle is often tested through the review/judicial processes in place. 

In addition to facing a possible ban from using a supplement containing a banned substance, some supplements may pose health risks. The best advice is that supplements should only be taken under the supervision of a medical practitioner or qualified nutritional specialist.

  • Supplements are an expensive and potentially toxic lucky dip. Dunlop, R., The Conversation (16 May 2016). The vitamin and supplement industry is big business in Australia and worldwide. An estimated 75% of the population use some form of complementary medicines, including vitamins, minerals, herbs, aromatherapy and homeopathic products. But some vitamin supplements and protein powders at best don’t work and, at worst, can cause harm.
  • Supplements and Safety [video]. PBS Frontline and New York Times, ABC Four Corners, (16 May 2016). It's a multi-billion dollar industry selling health supplements and vitamins - over the counter pills and capsules are bought in enormous numbers by consumers. In this joint investigation from the New York Times and the PBS Frontline program, the reporter asks leading clinicians and researchers for their assessment of these products and whether the claimed health benefits can be proven. The program raises troubling questions about the quality and safety of vitamins and dietary supplements.
  • Supplements - Know What You're Doing [video]. Play By The Rules, (11 May 2016). Do you want to know more about the use of supplements at grassroots level of sport? Are you concerned about people in your club taking supplements? Maybe you've been taking supplements - or thinking about it - and want to know more? It's important you know what you're doing when it comes to taking supplements. Some supplements can be beneficial, others can be harmful, and some can simply be a waste of money. So you need to get informed!  

Mechanical dopingMechanical doping

Mechanical doping, also called 'technological fraud', is currently an issue for cycling with athletes potentially installing tiny motors and/or other devices that assist with pedalling. 

  • Mechanical doping: a brief historyCycling News, (7 December 2016). The UCI officially calls it ‘technological fraud’ and introduced regulations last January that could see a rider given a minimum suspension of six months and huge fines if riders and teams are caught using a hidden motor in their bikes to boost their performance. The early kinds of motors were rudimentary and hidden in the seat tube but more sophisticated examples based on Formula 1 and Eastern Block military technology apparently involve hidden magnets in wheels which are much more difficult to detect. 
  • Hidden magnets — the next big cheat in cycling? CBS news, (29 January 2017). It's not just about doping anymore. 60 Minutes reports on hidden motors in bikes — and how magnets are being used to reinvent the wheel.
  • 'Doped bikes': Is this cycling's next cheating scandal? BBC Sport, (3 February 2016). First it was doping, now it's tiny motors hidden inside the frame that could threaten cycling's credibility...The first top-level case of "technological fraud" came to light after a bike was seized at the Cyclo-cross World Championships on Saturday.

The case of elite cyclist Lance Armstrong, having taken prohibited performance enhancing drugs during his professional cycling career, came to a head in 2013. Recurring questions about ethical behaviour in sport were part of the discussion surrounding the impact of drug use in cycling and in the broader sport sector.

Some academics, medical practitioners, athletes (past or present) and journalists have advocated for anti-doping rules and regulations to be relaxed altogether, or at least in certain circumstances.

  • Black and white anti-doping fight nears stalemate – here’s how to break it. Paul Dimeo, The Conversation, (16 September 2016). The world of anti-doping in sport sometimes feels like a battle between opposing forces on the same side. The debate has become polarised between those advocating zero tolerance and those who want to accept performance enhancement as a reality that needs to managed.
  • Anti-doping adviser makes case for legalising drugs and blood transfusions. Horne M, Sunday Times, (29 May 2016). A Scottish academic who acts as an adviser to the governing body of US cycling has claimed that there is a strong case for legalising banned substances in sport.
  • Allowing performance enhancing drugs will level the playing field. Semley J, The Star, (4th May 2016). PEDs can be viewed not as an attempt to cheat the system but as an attempt to correct for the unevenness of the genetic lottery
  • Why it’s time to legalise doping in athletics. Savulescu J, The Conversation, (28 August 2015). Despite the glitz and glory of Usain Bolt’s comeback victories and Jessica Ennis-Hill’s heptathlon triumph at the World Championships, 2015 is shaping up as quite the annus horribilis for athletics.
  • Should athletes be allowed to use performance enhancing drugs? Savulescu J, Creaney L and Vondy A, British Medical Journal, (22 October 2013). The authors present both sides of the case; the ‘pro drugs’ position is that rather than banning performance enhancing drugs, they should regulate them, whilst the contrary view is that this may lead to even more doping cases and in fact regulations should be more stringent.
  • Anti-doping has failed: it’s time to allow drugs in sport. de Neef M, Cycling Tips, (2013). Professor Julian Savulescu, a philosopher at the University of Oxford, has spent more than a decade arguing that it’s time to look at allowing athletes to use performance-enhancing substances. CyclingTips editor Matt de Neef spoke with Professor Savulescu to learn more about how such a proposal would look in the world of professional road cycling.
  • Why do we ban some drug-use in sport, but permit the use of other drugs? Stewart B and Smith A, BioMed Central, (2 December 2015). The authors discuss whether a harm reduction response aimed at protecting players offers an alternative direction to doping in sport.
Are anti-doping measures in place to protect athletes’ health and well-being, or to protect the integrity of sporting contests? Perhaps both ethical considerations support each other.
  • Ethics of sports doping [audio], Amanda Smith/Thomas Murray, ABC RN, (20 April 2019). One of the most intractable problems in sport is doping, and there are now those who say that performance enhancing drugs should be allowed. But Thomas Murray argues that doping is a problem because it fundamentally undermines what gives sport its value and meaning. Guest: Thomas Murray - biomedical ethicist, President Emeritus of the Hastings Center and former chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency ethics panel
  • Russian Athlete: Why Can't We Take Drugs? Sparks J, Sky News, (8 June 2016). Tatyana Firova suggests sportsmen and women wouldn't be able to "achieve high results" without performance-enhancing substances.
  • Can doping ever be eradicated from cycling? Cycling Weekly, (2 June 2016). Are anti-doping measures evolving fast enough to get ahead and ultimately restore fair competition?
  • Drugs in sport: what constitutes ‘unfair advantage’? Wickham G, The Conversation, (20 August 2015).
  • How to argue about doping in sport, Fry C, The Conversation, (20 August 2015). There has been a huge amount of academic, policy, and public debate over the years about doping in sport.
  • Sport and EthicsBBC online. Competition is not unethical. It is reasonable that winners be rewarded, even if their victories have an element of chance; this is the essence of a game, and games are fundamental to humanity….but the allure of winning can drive some competitors to unethical behaviour. 
  • Human experimentation and ethics at Essendon Football Club. Bradley J, The Conversation, (15 August 2013). The news that the AFL has charged James Hird, and other members of the Essendon Football Club’s management staff with bringing the sport into disrepute should surprise no-one. 

In the context of Australian sport, there have been a number of reports that have led to the development of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority’s (ASADA) current approach.

The 1982 results of the Survey of drug use in Australian sporta joint project between the Australian Sports Medicine Federation (ASMF) and the Australian Governmentcaused concern over some aspects of drug use in sport. The report revealed a distinct lack of direction or appropriate guidelines or policy for the use of drugs by Australian sportsmen and women. For instance, there was widespread agreement that using drugs to improve sports performance was 'wrong' but no generally agreed definitions of what constituted a 'drug', 'use of a drug in sport', or 'use of a drug to improve competitive performance'.

Overall, this report highlighted the existence of a ‘problem’ in connection with the use of drugs in Australian sport, which included the means to deal with the issues raised—a problem that was also mirrored world-wide. As such, recommendations around four key topics: 1) policy, 2) research, 3) education, and 4) control, were suggested. This led to the establishment of the National Program on Drugs in Sport under the guidance of the Australian Sports Commission (now Sport Australia).     

In 1988 the Australian Senate undertook an inquiry into drugs in sport, which focused on ‘the use by Australian sportsmen and sportswomen of performance enhancing drugs and the role played by Commonwealth agencies’. Two reports emanated from the inquiry, which recommended: 1) measures to detect the use of sports drugs, and 2) to restrict their overall availability. 

Following the Senate inquiry, an interim board was appointed and in 1990, the legislation establishing the Australian Sports Drugs Agency (ASDA) was passed.

ASDA was formed to coordinate Australia’s anti-doping program including: deterring the use of drugs or doping methods in sport; facilitating the safety of participants in sporting competitions; encouraging the development of programs to educate the sporting community about matters relating to the use of drugs in sport; advocating the international adoption of consistent and effective anti‑doping programs; and coordinating the development of a consistent and effective national response to matters relating to the use of drugs in sport. In 2006, ASDA was replaced by the new Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Act 2006 (ASADA).

While a number of the recommendations were adopted by the Government, there were several, including the types of powers to be allocated to ASDA and the establishment of an independent tribunal to adjudicate drug test penalties, that were not. The 'refreshed' organisation was given additional responsibilities in order to conduct investigations, prosecute cases at sporting tribunals, recommend sanctions, and approve and monitor sporting organisations' anti-doping policies.

  • International Summit : Drugs in Sport : pure performance, Sydney Australia 14-17 November 1999 (IICGADS). In November 1999, an international drugs in sport summit was organised in Sydney by the Government of Australia with participation by Government ministers and other authorised government officials responsible for anti-doping within their national jurisdictions. Participants came from 25 countries (Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the USA) and the European Commission. In the Sydney Communiqué the participants “affirmed their commitment to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and its development towards an independent, transparent and accountable agency that has broad support and respect among governments, intergovernmental organisations, as well as international and national sporting organisations, in particular athletes,...”
  • Drugs in sport in Australia [Wikipedia]. A snap-shot of the chronological history of drugs in sport from an Australian perspective.

Anderson Report [2004]

On 24 June 2004, the Australian Sports Commission (now Sport Australia) and Cycling Australia (CA) appointed the Honourable Robert Anderson QC, to conduct an independent inquiry into allegations by cyclist Mark French before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that other riders had regularly injected steroids in his room at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Del Monte residence in South Australia. In 2004 French was initially banned from competition however, he was cleared by the CAS in 2005 due to an apparent lack of evidence.

The Anderson inquiry investigated whether there had been any other evidence or information that may have indicated a breach of anti-doping policies or require persons to be excluded from participation in programs, teams and events. Additionally, it investigated the adequacy of the management and supervision of athletes at the AIS facility during 2003 and the effectiveness of steps taken by the AIS and CA when materials were discovered in Mark French's room in 2003.

The final report indicated no evidence of habitual or widespread drug use within the team and that the AIS and CA had responded appropriately. However, a key recommendation of the report was "that there should be a body which is quite independent of the AIS and of the Australian Sports Commission and of the sporting bodies themselves with the power and duty to investigate suspected infractions such as substance abuse and to carry the prosecution of persons against whom evidence is found". 

Australian Crime Commission [2013]

In February 2013, the Australian Crime Commission released a report on the findings of Operation Aperio; an investigation conducted to consider the extent of the use of performance and image enhancing drugs in professional sport. Popularly reported as 'the blackest day in Australian sport' the report identified the use of a variety of substances, prohibited by WADA, by professional athletes in a number of sports in Australia. In response to the report the Government introduced legislation to strengthen ASADA’s investigative powers which included civil penalties for refusing to cooperate with an investigation. 

As a result of this report the Essendon Football Club (Australian Football League) and Cronulla Football Club (National Rugby League) were investigated by ASADA. 34 current and former players from Essendon were given 2 year suspensions following the investigation and various appeals. 14 current and former players for the Cronulla Football Club were given 1 year bans. The events highlighted the need for all sport organisations’ and individuals to be diligent and aware to the potential threat posed by the use of drugs.

  • Essendon supplement scandal. AFL, (accessed 7 June 2017). The ASADA inquiry into Essendon's supplements program in 2012 became one of the sport's longest running sagas. AFL.com.au has followed the story from its inception.
  • Essendon Football Club supplements sagaWikipedia, (accessed 7 June 2017). 
  • Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks supplements saga. Wikipedia, (accessed 7 June 2017).
  • Essendon appeal rejected. ASADA, (12 October 2016). The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) today welcomed the decision of the Swiss Federal Tribunal to reject the 34 Essendon players’ final appeal.
  • WADA appeal against 34 current and former players of Essendon Football club upheld (PDF   - 226 KB). WADA, (15 January 2016). The appeal filed by WADA against the Australian Football League (AFL) Anti-Doping Tribunal’s decision of 31 March 2015 is upheld and the appealed decision is set aside. The 34 players concerned are sanctioned with a period of ineligibility of two years, commencing on 31 March 2015, with credit given for any individual period of ineligibility already served. Thus, most of the suspensions will come to an end in November 2016. (Full decision, PDF   - 387 KB).
  • Court Of Arbitration For Sport Decision - Essendon PlayersASADA, (15 January 2016). The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) acknowledged the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to impose two year bans on 34 current and former Essendon Football Club players for the use of the prohibited substance Thymosin Beta 4. The CAS result is final and overturns the decision of the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal announced in March 2015. It comes in response to the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) appeal of that Tribunal decision, which ASADA assisted in and strongly supported. 
  • WADA Statement on AFL CasesCAS, (11 May 2015). WADA Director General, David Howman: “After a thorough examination of the evidence contained within the file, WADA has decided to lodge its independent right of appeal to the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport .”

Review into the Integrity of Australian Sport 

In August 2017 then Federal Minister for Sport, the Hon Greg Hunt, announced a review into the integrity of Australian sport as part of the development of the Government's National Sport Plan. The review, led by the Hon James Wood AO QC, examined national and international integrity threats and future challenges, including the rise of illegal offshore wagering, match-fixing, and doping in sport. Additionally, it considered the merits of establishing a dedicated national sports integrity commission.

The review panel held over 40 stakeholder meetings, and reviewed over 30 written submissions referencing sports integrity that were provided through the National Sport Plan website.

The final report was provided to the Federal Government for consideration and response in March 2018 [source: Review of Australia’s Sports Integrity Arrangements, Senator The Hon Bridget McKenzie, Minister for Sport media release, (23 March 2018)] and was made public on the first of August 2018. In line with its terms of reference, the Review addresses key domestic and international threats to the integrity of sport and makes 52 recommendations across five key themes: a stronger national response to match fixing; Australian sports wagering scheme; enhancing Australia’s anti-doping capability; a national sports tribunal; and a national sports integrity commission.

The Government also announced the establishment of a Sports Integrity Review Taskforce to coordinate a whole-of-government response to the Review's recommendations as well as a Sports Integrity Review Inter-Departmental Committee to provide oversight and guidance to the Taskforce. Additionally, interested parties and stakeholders are invited to provide comment on the findings of the review through an online survey available until 31 August 2018. 

For more information and resources relating to the Review or to provide comments to help develop a Government response to the Review recommendations visit the Australian Government Department of Health web pages: 


The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Act 2006 (Act) and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Regulations 2006 provide for the operation of Australia’s sports anti-doping arrangements. ASADA is the focal point for the Australian Government’s efforts against doping in sport and implements programs and activities that comply with the WADA Code. These include deterrence (education and awareness), detection (testing and investigations), and enforcement (management of cases involving possible adverse findings).

A fundamental purpose of the Code is to protect the rights of the clean athlete. Australia’s National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) are required to have an anti-doping policy that complies with the Code, and acknowledges ASADA’s powers and functions under the Act. All NSO anti-doping policies replicate essential parts of the Code, meaning the operation of ASADA’s legislative functions complement the anti-doping policy of the relevant NSO.

To ensure that anti-doping arrangements are harmonised across the world, international sporting federations and anti-doping organisations that are signatories to the Code must update their anti-doping policies to reflect revisions in the Code. Additionally, governments that have ratified the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport, which includes the Australian Government, are obligated to update their arrangements to align with the principles of the revised Code.

ASADA logoAustralian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA)

ASADA is the government statutory authority whose mission is to protect Australia's sporting integrity through the elimination of doping in sport. ASADA reports to the Minister for Sport. From its head office in Canberra, ASADA operates under strict corporate governance guidelines and works closely with the Office of Sport within the Department of Health. Its main areas of focus include:

  • deterring prohibited doping practices in sport via education, doping control (testing), advocacy and the coordination of Australia's anti-doping program;
  • detecting a breach of a sport's anti-doping policy via its doping control (testing) and investigation programs; and
  • enforcing any breach of a policy by ensuring those violating anti-doping rules are prosecuted and sanctioned.

Numerous videos regarding ASADA’s role, responsibility and general information about anti-doping can be found on YouTube. 

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2014 was approved by Parliament in November 2014 and brought Australia's anti-doping legislation into alignment with the revised WADA Code and International Standards that came into force on 1 January 2015.

Department-of-HealthThe Department of Health

The National Integrity of Sport Unit is responsible for overseeing the anti-doping legislation, regulation, policies, and administrative practices between the Commonwealth and Australian states/territories. The National Anti-Doping Framework coordinates these efforts and aims to align domestic anti-doping efforts in Australia through a set of agreed principles.

The Department also coordinates an Anti-Doping Research Program that provides funding for anti-doping related research. An example of a finalised research project is:

Sport Australia logoSport Australia (formerly the Australian Sports Commission)

In order to be recognised by Sport Australia National Sporting Organisation’s (NSO's) are required to have an anti-doping policy which is compliant with the WADA code, and approved by ASADA. 

National Peak Bodies

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), Australian Paralympic Committee (APC), and Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) are all signatories to the WADA Code. As such they are responsible for assisting ASADA in initiating, implementing, and enforcing the doping control process. They also work closely with ASADA, WADA, and the relevant international organisations to maintain the integrity of sport in Australia and around the world. 

  • Anti-Doping By-Law (PDF  – 276 KB). Australian Olympic Committee, (6 August 2015).
  • Anti-doping policy and team codes of behaviour. Australian Olympic Committee.
  • APC Anti-Doping Policy (PDF   – 518 KB). Australian Paralympic Committee, (effective 1 January 2015).
  • Anti-Doping By-Law, (PDF   – 484 KB). Commonwealth Games Australia, (3 March 2017).

Australian Sports Drug Medical Advisory Committee (ASDMAC)

ASDMAC is a specialist medical advisory body which fulfils Australia’s responsibility under the International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions by performing the following functions: 

  • giving approval for athletes to use prohibited medications for legitimate therapeutic purposes;
  • conducting investigations and providing additional medical and scientific expertise to help determine positive test results;
  • providing expert medical advice to drug testing laboratories;
  • providing expert medical advice to anti-doping tribunals;
  • advising athletes, support personnel, and national sporting organisations about anti-doping issues and the wellbeing of athletes;
  • giving advice to ASADA and Sport Australia on matters relating to anti-doping and athletes’ health and wellbeing; and
  • providing advice to ASADA and ASADA’s clients about sports medicine issues.

Athletes may also take drugs that are not intended to improve their performance. Each country will regulate how drugs are accessed (i.e. medical prescription or over-the-counter sale) and even whether-or-not a drug can be legally used. Taking some substances may be illegal within the jurisdiction where the athlete resides. In this case detection of drug use is a law enforcement issue and any resulting punishment/sanctions a matter for the legal system. Some illegal (within a particular jurisdiction) drugs are also on the WADA prohibited list.

Professional sports organisations in Australia, as well as in many other countries, have developed their own illicit drugs policies and may have testing/monitoring requirements in addition to WADA’s protocols. So called ‘recreational’ drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and cannabis may fall into the realm of illicit drugs.

In 2009, the Australian Government initiated an Illicit Drugs in Sport Program to educate athletes. The main aims of Program are to: (1) prevent illicit drug use in elite sport through education programs targeted at athletes, coaches, and administrators; (2) utilise role models to help deliver community education about the harms of illicit drug use; and (3) assist athletes identified with a drug problem in getting professional help.

The Illicit Drugs in Sport Online Education Programme is an Australian Government initiative that allows athletes to receive information about the potential harms associated with illicit drugs.

This program is part of a wider Sports Integrity Program that covers a broad range of topics, such as gambling and match fixing as well as drug use. 

The Tackling Illegal Drugs program is funded by the Australian Government and proudly delivered by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation. It aims to help Australian sports clubs become better prepared to address drug-related issues.

In December 2014 a documentary was broadcast on German television. The documentary triggered an investigation by WADA, headed by Dick Pound, which led to two damaging reports regarding the Russian anti-doping system and the actions of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Shortly after, the former head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory provided a detailed picture to the New York Times of the operation of a state-led doping scheme in Russia. The system was designed to avert any positive doping tests for top-level Russian sportspeople; the scope of the cover-up went well beyond the sport of athletics. These allegations were later confirmed and reinforced by the McLaren investigation, also initiated by WADA. The publication of the first McLaren Report in July 2016 shortly before the Rio Olympics, and the second in December 2016 confirmed the systematic cover-up of doping by elite Russian athletes.

The revelation of such a sophisticated state-run system designed to circumvent the world anti-doping system could not be left unsanctioned. First the IAAF and then the IOC (i.e. through the delegation to its member international sport federations) took action to sanction some/all Russian athletes. The Russian Olympic Committee, and many of its banned athletes, then decided to challenge these decisions in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). In the end, 278 out of 389 Russian athletes were cleared to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

In July 2016 the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) decided to suspend the National Paralympic Committee of Russia (NPC Russia) of all its IPC member privileges. Specifically, NPC Russia was not allowed to enter its athletes in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. As expected, NPC Russia challenged this decision at the CAS, but the appeal was dismissed by the Court [source: CAS dismisses the appeal filed by the Russian Paralympic Committee (PDF  - 146 KB), CAS media release, (23 August 2016)].  

Although the decisions of CAS on individual cases went both ways (i.e. some athlete were banned and some allowed to compete in Rio), the majority of cases confirmed the right of international sport governing bodies to uphold the world anti-doping system by banning Russian athletes from competition.

  • The Russian doping scandal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport: Lessons for the world anti-doping system. Duval A, The International Sports Law Journal, Volume 16, Issue 3, (2017). This article analyses the CAS awards (i.e. case decisions) in a chronological order. It starts with the IAAF Award and then considers the many awards rendered by the CAS ad hoc Division, meeting in Rio. Finally, it looks at the ‘IPC award’. This paper traces the reasoning used by the CAS panels and analyses the broader consequences of the decisions made in the context of the world anti-doping system.

Other media reports of the Russian doping scandal demonstrate the difficult position that WADA, the IOC, the IPC, and their member international sport federations face when the law is applied in the context of sport.

In consultation with WADA in November 2016 the IPC informed the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) of the criteria it would need to meet in order to have its IPC membership re-instated, and for its athletes to be able to compete in future Paralympic Games and events under the Russian flag. An IPC Taskforce, headed by Andy Parkinson, was appointed to work with the RPC and help the IPC determine if and when the criteria had been met. In December 2017 the IPC maintained the RPC suspension from competing at the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games with a final decision to be made in late January 2018. An interim measure, initially announced in September 2017, that allowed Russian athletes to compete as neutrals in qualification events for alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, and snowboard was continued and will allow RPC athletes to compete at PyeongChang if the suspension is lifted in time [source: Information on the suspension of the Russian Paralympic Committee by the IPC, International Paralympic Committee, (accessed 19 January 2018)]. 

The IOC established two Disciplinary Commissions in July 2016 to investigate the allegations against Russia and determine future pathways. The Oswald Commission investigated alleged doping violations by Russian athletes at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. The Schmid Commission looked more broadly at the systematic manipulation of the anti-doping system in Russia. As of 22 December 2017 a total of 43 Russian athletes had been disqualified for doping violations at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, including 13 medallists [source: Oswald Commission, Wikipedia, (accessed 19 January 2017)].  

In December 2017, after 17 months of investigation, the Schmid Commission confirmed "the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia, through the Disappearing Positive Methodology and during the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, as well as the various levels of administrative, legal and contractual responsibility, resulting from the failure to respect the respective obligations of the various entities involved". As a consequence the IOC suspended the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) with immediate effect from competing at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, although selected athletes will be allowed to compete (under strict conditions) under the Olympic flag. 

In August 2017 WADA published a Roadmap to Code Compliance which outlined the criteria that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) must meet in order to be declared compliant with the WADA Code. The Roadmap was developed and agreed with RUSADA; as well as the Ministry of Sport, the National Olympic Committee, and the Independent Public Anti-Doping Commission. At the time 12 criteria still needed to be met.  

Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

Report iconAdditional reports

WADA Independent Observer program reports

Blog iconBlogs 

The Australian Parliamentary Library’s ‘Flag Post’ blog series has covered a range of key issues concerning sports doping:

  • Clean Sport Blog, UK Anti-Doping. The Clean Sport Blog aims to keep you informed of anti-doping issues at home and abroad. We’ll have blogs from our staff and athletes; Q&As; articles about new product ingredients and all the latest information on how to compete clean. 


  • Another sports drug-testing failure: Australian government policy and power lifting. Chris Lewis, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, (February 2015). Despite a greater effort by governments to test sports people for the use of performance-enhancing drugs in recent decades, major policy flaws by national governments remain evident. This article focuses on Australian government involvement in power lifting, a sport where membership remains divided between tested and non-tested federations, despite public funded drug testing since 1990. 
  • Anti-Doping and Non-Performance Enhancing Drugs: The Debate? Performance Enhancement & Health, Volume 2, Issue 2, (June 2013). Special Edition edited by Jason Mazanov which provides a variety of articles relating to drug use, sport policy, and the mandate and future of WADA.
  • Anti-Doping Suspensions and Restraint of Trade in Sport. Greenhow A, ePublications@bond, Bond University, (2008). The regulator of doping in sport seeks to preserve the spirit of sport and act as the paternalistic protector of the sports participant. But sanctions originally designed to stop drug cheats using artificial performance enhancers in Olympic competition have expanded to cover the use of recreational drugs. There is emerging support for the view that the penalty must fit the crime and that governing bodies must ensure that their legitimate interests outweigh the detriment to the athlete. With doping sanctions imposed for the use of recreational drugs, a restraint of trade claim has prospects of success on the basis of a weakening of the public policy justification for imposing the sanction.
  • Cycling Canada publishes findings of national consultation into doping (PDF  - 1.9 MB). SIRC, (October 2014).The independent consultation firm LLB Strategies, commissioned by Cycling Canada with the support of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, submitted its final report on its "National Consultation on Doping Activity in the Sport of Cycling".
  • Doping among amateur athletes like CrossFitters is probably more common than you’d think. Kyle J.D. Mulrooney, PhD Fellow, Doctorate in Cultural and Global Criminology, University of Kent and Katinka van de Ven, Research Fellow, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW, The Conversation, (29 August 2017). It is a misperception to think that performance-enhancing drug use is an issue in elite sport only. Most people who use these substances do so to improve their appearance, general wellbeing and/or performance (non-elite).
  • Doping controls in gyms – ineffective, costly and more common than you think, Katinka van de Ven, Lecturer in Criminology, Birmingham City University and Kyle J.D. Mulrooney, Ph.D. Fellow, Doctorate in Cultural and Global Criminology, University of Kent, The Conversation, (14 December 2016). Anti-doping is not just something that exists in elite sports; it’s increasingly being applied to recreational gym users. While most countries focus on prevention and education, a handful have taken the drastic step of introducing doping controls in commercial gyms. In 2003, Belgium became the first country to introduce such measures. Sweden, Denmark and Norway soon followed their lead.
  • Doping in Sport: Current Issues and Challenges for Sport Management. Terry Engelberg and James Skinner, Sport Management Review, Volume 19, Issue 1, (February 2016). This special issue brings together a range of scholarly articles that represent a variety of perspectives by authors from North America, Europe and Australia. The issues and challenges covered are varied, but each paper brings a common theme: the implications for the management of doping in sport. The six papers in this Special Issue of Sport Management Review are a significant addition to the slowly growing body of sport management scholarly work on doping in sport. 
  • In sport’s drug-testing arms race, the cheats are usually a step ahead. Tom Bassindale, The Conversation, (11 June 2015). Yet another big name in sport has been caught up in allegations surrounding a doping scandal. Alberto Salazar, coach to several star athletes including double Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah, denies claims in a BBC documentary he broke anti-doping rules with one of his trainees, Galen Rupp. Farah is not accused of any wrongdoing. 
  • More money – better anti-doping? Carsten Kraushaar Martensen and Verner Møller, Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, (December 2016). Ever since the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was established, underfunding of the global fight against doping has been a perennial issue. So when WADA’s “independent” committee’s report about the lack of effectiveness of anti-doping testing was published, it was no surprise to read the committee’s complaint that the national anti-doping organisations’ (NADO) operations were held back by “Unwillingness of stakeholders to provide sufficient funding of NADOs”. In this paper, we explore how the funding of the world anti-doping campaign and the testing efficacy has developed.
  • SARMs: The massive black market in illegal bodybuilding 'research chemicals', James Purtill, ABC/JJJ Hack program, (17 April 2018). A two-part investigation into steroids and supplements by triple j Hack and Background Briefing has revealed the massive extent of SARMs sales in Australia. SARMs (Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators) - the collective name for a group of compounds that were largely developed in the 1990s to help patients recover muscle after cancer treatment, and which haven't yet completed full clinical trials.
  • Sports Integrity E-Book (PDF  - 4.9 MB), (2017). The Sports Integrity e-book was prepared by National Integrity of Sport Unit (NISU) following on from the 2017 Integrity Roadshow. It provides information about  a range of integrity issues, tips for sports and individuals, and a comprehensive list of resources available including courses and education options.
  • Steroid Abuse in HS and College Athletes [infographic], Jane Otterson, Athletic Business, (July 2017). This infographic aims to educate the masses about the perils of steroid abuse in high school and college athletes with the help of some important facts and figures.
  • Study shows at least 30% doping prevalence in 2011 athletic championships, Play the Game, (4 September 2017). The majority of doping usage goes under the radar, a newly released report indicates. According to the results, up to 45% of athletes, competing at two 2011 championships, claimed having taken performance enhancing drugs in the previous 12 months.
  • Understanding and responding to the rise of steroid injecting in Australia: Recommendations from a national consultation (PDF  – 1.8 MB). Seear K, Murphy D, Fraser S and Moore D, National Drug Research Institute (June 2015). This report details findings from a national consultation on illicit steroid use in Australia undertaken between late 2014 and early 2015. The report presents findings from interviews conducted with a range of stakeholders, including academics, policymakers, service providers, user group representatives and other advocates. 

Research iconResearch

  • Anti-doping and legitimacy: an international survey of elite athletes’ perceptions. Anna Efverström, Nader Ahmadi, David Hoff and Åsa Bäckström, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, Volume 8, Issue 3, (2016). Anti-doping work is a comprehensive enterprise that entails control and governance of elite athletes’ everyday lives. However, in policy-making regarding doping and anti-doping in elite sports, the athletes’ perspective has not been considered adequately. Focusing on elite athletes’ perceptions of anti-doping as both principle and praxis, the study aimed to analyse how these perceptions can be understood from a legitimacy perspective.
  • Australian athlete support personnel lived experience of anti-doping. Mazanov, Jason; Hemphill, Dennis; Connor, James; Quirk, Frances; Backhouse, Susan H., Sport Management Review, Volume 18, Issue 2, (May 2015). Athlete support personnel (ASP) implement drug control policies for sport, such as anti-doping. Interviews with 39 ASP reveal how differences between policy and practice play out in their “lived experience” of anti-doping. While most ASP support the ideology underlying anti-doping at a “common sense” level (using popular drug and sporting discourses such as “drugs are bad” and sporting virtue), they are critical of anti-doping practice. 
  • Doping control from a global and national perspective. Fraser AD, Therapeutic Drug Monitoring, Volume 26, Issue 2, (April 2004). The practice of enhancing athletic performance through foreign substances was known from the earliest Olympic games. In 1967, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) established a Medical Commission responsible for developing a list of prohibited substances and methods. Drug tests were first introduced at the Olympic winter games in Grenoble and at the summer games in Mexico City in 1968. In February 1999, the IOC convened the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland. The Lausanne Declaration on Doping in Sport recommended creation of an International Anti-Doping Agency. The World Anti-Doping Agency was formed in Lausanne, Switzerland on the basis of equal representation from the Olympic movement and public authorities.
  • Doping in Two Elite Athletics Competitions Assessed by Randomized-Response Surveys, Rolf Ulrich, Harrison G. PopeJr., Léa Cléret, Andrea Petróczi, Tamás Nepusz, Jay Schaffer, Gen Kanayama, R. Dawn Comstock, Perikles Simon, Sports Medicine, Volume 48(1), pp.211-219, (28 August 2017). This research utilised a “randomized response technique”—a method that guarantees anonymity for individuals when answering a sensitive question—to estimate the prevalence of past-year doping at two major international athletic events: the 13th International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in Athletics (WCA) in Daegu, South Korea and the 12th Quadrennial Pan-Arab Games (PAG) in Doha, Qatar, both held in 2011. 2167 athletes responded to the survey. The authors concluded that after performing numerous sensitivity analyses, assessing the robustness of our estimates under various hypothetical scenarios of intentional or unintentional noncompliance by respondents, we found that the prevalence of past-year doping was at least 30% at WCA and 45% at PAG. These findings suggest that biological testing greatly underestimates the true prevalence of doping in elite athletics, and indicate the need for future studies of the prevalence of doping in athletics using randomized response techniques.
  • Drivers of illicit drug use regulation in Australian sport, Bob Stewart, Daryl Adairb, & Aaron Smith, Sport Management Review, Volume 14(3), pp.237-245, (August 2011).  The aim of this analysis was to secure a clearer understanding of the drivers of Australian sport's illicit drug regulations by (1) identifying those stakeholders who set the drug regulation agenda, (2) revealing the values and dispositions that underpin these regulations, and (3) explaining how dominant stakeholders go about sustaining their position and marginalising those stakeholders with opposing drug regulation claims. The results show that Australian sport's drug-use regulations are driven by a set of values and dispositions that views sport as an instrument for shaping the character of its participants, and drugs as a threat to sport's moral fabric and good standing. 
  • Drug testing in sport: the attitudes and experiences of elite athletes. Dunn M, Thomas J, Swift W, Burns L, Mattick R, The International Journal On Drug Policy, (2010). This study aimed to investigate, among a sample of elite Australian athletes, the extent to which this group supports drug testing as a deterrent to drug use.
  • Long term effects of doping in sporting records: 1886-2012. Hermann, A and Hennneberg, M, Journal of Human Sport and Exercise (2014). Best life times of top athletes, Olympic records, world records, and any doping information were collected from the IOC, IAAF, WADA and national anti-doping associations. About 1560 records of male and female athletes in 22 disciplines of summer and 4 winter sports were collected. Data were analysed for long-term effects of doping using non-linear regression techniques. Comparisons were made of pre-1932 records (when steroids became available) and post. Analyses were repeated using 1967, when widespread use of doping was formally acknowledged. After these dates records in a number of disciplines did not improve as predicted by extrapolation of pre-doping years results. Averaged best life records for ‘doped’ top athletes did not differ significantly from those considered ‘non-doped’. Even assuming that not all cases of doping were discovered, the practice did not alter sporting records as commonly believed, Doping may be damaging the image of sports without benefiting results.
  • Nicotine: Sporting Friend or Foe? A Review of Athlete Use, Performance Consequences and Other Considerations. Toby Mundel, Sports Medicine, (published online August 2017). Nicotine use amongst athletes is high and increasing, especially in team sports. This narrat ive review examines the rationale behind its use and evidence of its effect on physical performance, and considers important factors that should determine future research efforts.
  • Perceived incidence of drug use in Australian sport: a survey of public opinion. Moston S, Skinner J, Engelberg T, Sport in Society, (2012). In the last few years, a large number of cases have come to light in which celebrated individuals, and even whole teams, have been found to have used either banned performance enhancing or ‘recreational’ drugs.
  • Perception Of Risks Associated With The Doping Use Among The Competitors Practicing Individual And Group Sport Disciplines. Mroczkowska H, Polish Journal of Sport & Tourism, (2011). The aim of this study was the research among athletes whether and to what extent the sport discipline practised (individual or team competition) influences the perception of risk associated with the use of doping in sport, and whether age and experience translates into the sports perception of the risks of doping.
  • Performance enhancement, elite athletes and antidoping governance: comparing human guineapigs in pharmaceutical research and professional sports. Silvia Camporesi and Michael J McNamee, Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, (2014). In light of the WADA’s 2013 Code Revision process, 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. 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.
  • Player and athlete attitudes to drugs in Australian sport: implications for policy development. Stewart B, Smith A, International Journal of Sport Policy, (2010). This article reports on 12 case histories with a view to 1) uncovering the attitudes of players and athletes to drugs in sport, and 2) exploring the implications of these attitudes for the formulation of effective anti-doping policy.
  • Prevalence of doping use in elite sports: a review of numbers and methods. de Hon, Kuipers H, van Bottenburg M., Sports Medicine, Volume 45, Issue 1, (January 2015). The prevalence of doping in elite sports is relevant for all those involved in sports, particularly for evaluating anti-doping policy measures. Remarkably, few scientific articles have addressed this subject so far, and the last review dates back to 1997. As a consequence, the true prevalence of doping in elite sports is unknown.
  • Public perception of sport anti-doping policy in Australia. Engelberg T, Moston S, Skinner J, Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy, (2012). An implicit rationale for anti-doping legislation is that doping damages the public image of sport and that this, in turn, has serious consequences for the sporting industry.
  • Randomized response estimates for doping and illicit drug use in elite athletes. Striegel H, Ulrich H, Simon P, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, (2010). To date, there are estimates for the percentage of unknown cases of doping and illicit drug use in fitness sports, but not for elite sports. This can be attributed to the problem of implementing questionnaires and surveys to get reliable epidemiological estimates of deviant or illicit behaviour.
  • Review of Social Science Anti-Doping: Literature and Recommendations for Action (PDF  –  1.4 MB). Terry Engelberg, Stephen Moston, Brendan Hutchinson & James Skinner, Anti-Doping Research Program 2012-13 Research Report, University of Canberra/Griffith University, (31 October  2014). A systematic review of the social science literature on doping published between 2000 and the present was conducted. A total of 529 relevant publications were identified. This included 481 academic peer-reviewed journal articles (90.9% of the total), 43 chapters in scholarly books (8.1%) and five scholarly books (0.9%). Each publication was coded for year of publication, research methodology, country of origin (i.e., where data collection occurred), populations studied, sample sizes and focus of the study.
  • Sport and youth substance use: Findings from a systematic review of longitudinal studiesCanadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA). CCSA commissioned a systematic review to examine the relationship between sport participation and substance use among youth ages 10 to 24. This review included both elite and non-elite sport levels and focused on longitudinal and intervention (experimental) studies.
  • Sport participation, motivation and performance enhancement survey (PDF  –  635 KB). Drug Free Sport New Zealand, (2014). Researchers from the Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, conducted a survey to investigate the attitudes, exposure and use of nutritional supplements and banned drugs in 142 elite high-school rugby players from seven New Zealand schools. There was particular interest in the general knowledge of young rugby players as it related to doping in sport, their use of and attitudes toward nutritional supplements, when they might consider using legal or banned performance-enhancing substances, and who most influenced their final decision.
  • The final frontier of anti-doping: A study of athletes who have committed doping violations. Engelberg, Terry; Moston, Stephen; Skinner, James, Sport Management Review, Vol. 18 Issue 2, (May2015). Although the use of banned drugs in sport is not a new phenomenon, little is known about the experiences and perceptions of athletes who have committed anti-doping rule violations. This study qualitatively explored the experiences of 18 athletes (from the sports of bodybuilding, powerlifting, cricket, sprint kayak, rugby league, and swimming) who had committed anti-doping violations. 
  • The ‘sorry addict’: Ben Cousins and the construction of drug use and addiction in elite sport. Seear K, Fraser S, Health Sociology Review, (2010). AFL player Ben Cousins is one of the most highly acclaimed and recognised athletes in Australia. Followed closely in the media, his off-field activities are subject to as much attention and speculation as those on the field. In 2007, Cousins and his family confirmed long-standing rumours that he was an illicit (non-performance enhancing) drug user. Following a series of incidents, his football contract was terminated and Cousins publicly entered drug rehabilitation. In this article we explore the multiple extant accounts of Cousins’ drug use.
  • Time for change: a roadmap to guide the implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code 2015. Dvorak J, Baume N, Botré F, et al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, (2014). A medical and scientific multidisciplinary consensus meeting was held from 29 to 30 November 2013 on Anti-Doping in Sport at the Home of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland, to create a roadmap for the implementation of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code. The consensus statement and accompanying papers set out the priorities for the antidoping community in research, science and medicine.
  • Young athletes' awareness and monitoring of anti-doping in daily life: Does motivation matter? D. K. C. Chan et al, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, (December 2014). This study was a preliminarily investigation into the prevention of unintentional doping on the basis of self-determination theory (SDT). Specifically, we examined the relationship between athletes' motives for doping avoidance and their behaviour when offered an unfamiliar food product.

resources iconResources

  • ASADA Clean Sport is a mobile app which lists every batch-tested supplement sold on Australian shelves, and gives athletes a way to assess the risk of other products. It is available on Apple and Android phones and tablets. 
  • ASADA e-Learning. ASADA e-Learning is a free and easy-to-use online education tool featuring online courses, videos and learning updates. It provides everyone with the opportunity to learn about the key areas of anti-doping such as prohibited substances and methods, Therapeutic Use Exemptions, doping control and whereabouts.
  • Dangers of Doping (PDF  –  880 KB), ASADA, (accessed 10 May 2019). The Dangers of Doping: Get the Facts brochure specifically targets young people and addresses why doping is a concern beyond being against the rules of sport. It was developed in partnership with the World Anti-Doping Agency and includes the risks associated with using supplements, as well as the health consequences associated with specific substances (including steroids, EPO, stimulants, hGH, masking agents, marijuana and narcotics).
  • Global DRO. Athletes and support personnel can use Global DRO (online search tool) to find out whether the most commonly prescribed and over-the-counter medicines in Australia are permitted or prohibited in their sport.
  • Lesson plans and resources for teachers, ASADA, (accessed 10 May 2019). ASADA and the National Integrity of Sport Unit (NISU) have developed a suite of lesson plans which can be used to inform students from years 9 to 10 on issues explored in the National Curriculum for Health and Physical Education. The plans include topics such as performance-enhancing drugs in sport, playing by the rules, ethical decision making, and other sports integrity subjects. The plans are adaptable for use in a senior secondary environment.
  • Parents Guide to Clean Sport mini-course, Play by the Rules/ASADA/WADA, (2019). At the conclusion of this mini-course you will have a better understanding of the important role you play in teaching your children respect for and appreciation of the true spirit of sport, and be able to inform your children about how to protect themselves in their sport career in relation to performance enhancing drugs and drug use. 

Video iconClearinghouse videos 

Please note a number of the resources below (as indicated) are restricted to ‘GOLD' AIS Advantage small AIS Advantage members only.
Please see the Clearinghouse membership categories for further information.


Website iconWebsites

  • Anti-Doping Research Institute. Anti-Doping Research is at the forefront of performance-enhancing drug research organizations in the world. Our Mission is to get rid of illegal performance-enhancing drugs by uncovering new substances and developing tests to detect them. This non-profit organization is part grassroots campaign, part collaboration and part think tank.
  • National Measurement Institute. This research program aims to improve analytical techniques used in the sports drug testing laboratory (ASDTL) and to investigate new forms of doping which are currently undetectable.
  • Taylor Hooton Foundation. THF is a non-profit organization leading a national campaign to educate youth and their adult influencers about the dangers of Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs including anabolic steroids, hGH, and unregulated dietary supplements.


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