An hour a day for anti-doping

Between training and competition, doping controls are a daily obligation for athletes. WADA’s websystem ADAMS, collects personal data of athletes to organise and simplify such controls. Since athletes claim that the system is not user-friendly, GPS surveillance has recently emerged as an alternate option.


Athletes who want to compete in tournaments need to get tested on doping regularly. In 2005, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) developed a web-based system that collects and stores data in order to harmonize doping controls.

This system has been heavily criticized because in order to keep the system running the platform is fed with personal data on laboratory results, therapeutic use exemptions and anti-doping rule violations.

Whereabouts have to be reported by the athletes – mandatory and any time they change their location.

According to a WADA promotion video featuring ADAMS, the system is used by 130 anti-doping agencies and laboratories and about 20.000 athletes are registered in different testing pools.

Being grounded for seven months

“There are different types of testing pools. Top Athletes in the Registered Testing Pool (RTP) are obliged to report their whereabouts for at least one hour a day. Verner Møller from Aarhus University once told a nice anecdote: an athlete that is registered on ADAMS for 15 years, would by this be grounded for seven months total, maybe without a single actual control,” says researcher Marcel Scharf of German Sports University Cologne. Scharf is part of a team that conducted a survey on the athletes’ perception of ADAMS.

Some athletes don’t have to follow the one-hour-a-day-rule. “There is definitely a discrimination comparing athletes that have to follow the rule and athletes that don’t,” says Scharf.

In their study, which was based on a web survey and qualitative interviews, they found that athletes often struggle to report all their information properly. Many have never received an introduction to the system or have been accompanied while reporting their data.

No privacy for athletes

They further found a lack of transparency when it came to who has insight in the athletes’ data. The data is accessible for federations, clubs, organisations and other stakeholders, but very often it is unclear to the athletes who exactly has had access to it.

“According to the European Convention on Human Rights ‘privacy’ does in this case not exist, it has been abolished through the ‘athletes agreement’,” says Scharf. There is an infringement in the athletes’ privacy.

Athletes that are registered in ADAMS have to sign to the WADA Code.

“The problem is that they are not aware of what this actually means for them, their career and their social environment.” The reported whereabouts might also be their social environments’ whereabouts and they might not know that has been reported.

GPS as an alternate option

As an alternative, locating via GPS is often referenced. “If you think about Smartphone, GPS locating is something, that is definitely there,” says Scharf, but he warns about being over-hasty. ”You have to be careful about it, because although the upcoming generation of athletes has grown up with this technology, is hasn’t discussed the problems related to it.”

Featured Image: Thomas Søndergaard/Play the Game.

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