Technische Universität München

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The fight against doping

During the 20th century commercialism characterized the sports world and sporting has gradually evolved from an “activity” into a “big business”. The achievement of golden medals has become highly valued and the need for success has put high pressure on athletes, trainers and other sport people to become champions. The wording “second is nothing, first is everything” describes the current status of thinking in many cases. Eventually, the need for success led to increased incidences of drug abuse and in numerous cases doping was related to deaths of athletes.


Scientific proof

Already in the year 1910 in Austria, after several unexpected results in horse races, the scientific use of doping substances was proven for the first time by the Polish pharmacist Bukowski, who isolated alkaloids in the saliva of horses. In 1928 the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) became the 1st International Sport Federation to ban doping in track and field events. Many other International Federations followed, but the anti-doping fight was still in infant age with minimal effectiveness. The increased number of doping cases in events eventually led the authorities to speak out against the harm that drugs were causing - not only to the individual but also in the spirit of sports.

Drug testing programs have been implemented in the late 1960s. While the use of doping substances by athletes appeared to be rather commonly accepted, the sports world preferred to ignore the problem or simply joined in.

The anti-doping initiatives

The first big step in the fight against doping was committed in 1960, when the council of Europe, presented a resolution against the use of doping substances in sports. It seems that the first deaths were necessary in order to sensitize the authorities for this phenomenon. The 1st anti-doping legislation appeared in France in 1963, while Belgium followed in 1965. In 1967, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) established the relative medical commission of the IOC. Drug tests were first introduced at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968 and at the Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble. A list of banned substances and methods was set up by the IOC, although the technical equipment and the testing procedures was still inadequate.

National and international authorities continued to implement anti-doping initiatives throughout the late 1960s and 1970s and the majority of International Federations introduced drug testing procedures. Following amphetamines in 1950s and 1960s, the use of anabolic steroids became widespread at that time. Reliable test methods for the detection of anabolic agents were introduced in 1974 and in 1976. The anabolic steroids were added to the list of prohibited substances of the IOC. As a result of that progress, the number of drug disqualifications in the late 1970s, especially in strength-related sports increased. However, the world records kept on improving while suspicions about State-sponsored doping in some countries were not verified until recently.
In 1983, the anti-doping control made an important step forward by implementing new analytical procedures. The introduction of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry allowed a more effective drug testing. The scandal during the Pan American Games in Caracas (1983) in which numerous athletes were tested positive to prohibited drugs and many others left the Games without competing was a proof for the effectiveness of the new testing procedures.

In the 1970s, parallel to anabolic steroids use, the blood doping was becoming quite popular especially in endurance sports. The IOC banned blood doping as a prohibited method in 1986. Blood doping was used in order to increase the hematocrit and the concentration of hemoglobin. However, the same effects were also achieved with drugs like erythropoietin, being new at that time. Hence, Erythropoietin was banned by the IOC in 1990. Nevertheless, erythropoietin was undetectable for a long period of time since there were no reliable testing methods. A solid detection test for erythropoietin was applied for the first time at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.
Due to another big scandal during the Tour de France in 1998, the IOC convened the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Lausanne in February 1999. The main result of that conference was the establishment of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on November 10th 1999. WADA is structured on the basis of equal representation of the Olympic Movement and the Public Authorities. The headquarters of WADA were initially in Lausanne while now they are located in Montreal. The WADA sets unified standards for the fight against doping and coordinates the efforts of sports organizations and public authorities. However, these efforts should not address only the chase of doping supporters but the prevention of doping occurrence should be the primary aim. Therefore, information and education of the sport world are the most effective weapons for the fight against doping and the present EU program is part of this auspicious campaign.