News 27th February 2017

The future of whereabouts: a secure GPS tracking system

A former Olympic 400m runner and researchers from German universities have developed a wearable GPS tracking device that they claim will offer athletes a simpler and more secure way of filing their ‘whereabouts’ requirements, which indicate where they will be available for anti-doping tests. Jonas Plass, a 400m runner and researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute and the Technical University of Berlin have developed Project Paradise, which involves a wearable GPS tag that will allow Doping Control Officers (DCOs) to locate athletes for testing, while freeing athletes from the rigmarole and privacy dangers of having to enter their exact location into the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS).

PARADISE (Privacy-Enhancing and Reliable Anti-Doping Integrated Service Environment) has been developed in association with the Schleswig-Holstein State Centre for Data Protection and features in a recent documentary produced by ARD (video below). The system works by initially giving an athlete’s rough location to a DCO, who receives the exact location of the athlete once they are within four kilometres of the athlete. It also features designated private areas (such as graveyards) and allows athletes to add private areas where they cannot be located by a DCO.

“Overall, by reducing the amount of data collected, using dedicated data and ensuring greater data security, the system ensures that the privacy of athletes is better protected and that athletes gain more confidence in the anti-doping control system”, explains Sebastian Zickau of the SNET Telekom Innovation Laboratory at the Technical University of Berlin in a media statement. ‘The technology is not only more user-friendly, but also ensures that data access is understandable for users’.

Get ready for some acronyms. Under WADA’s International Standard for Testing and Investigations (ISTI), which is mandatory for Anti-Doping Organisations (ADOs) that have adopted the World Anti-Doping Code, ADOs must establish a Test Distribution Plan (TDP) including a Registered Testing Pool (RTP). ADOs are given discretion as to who should be included in that RTP, but it should include elite athletes from which the ADO plans to collect more than three out-of-competition (OOC) samples per year. Under the ISTI, athletes included in the RTP are required to provide ‘whereabouts’ information each quarter of the year through ADAMS, indicating in advance where they will be available for testing for one hour each day (although the locations can be later amended).

Back in 2013, European body the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, which is made up of European data protection government ministers, warned that the then planned 2015 World Anti-Doping Code and ISTI did not respect European data protection laws, outlining a number of specific issues including the ‘whereabouts’ requirements. Following hacks into anti-doping systems by Fancy Bears, concerns also exist as to whether ADOs are offering adequate protection to athlete data.

“The way that the ADAMS system is being operated today stands in conflict with the constitutional law”, Data protection officer for the German State of Baden-Württemberg, Stefan Brink, tells ARD. “The athletes are severely restricted in their basic rights, their basic right to self determination, and all that without an adequate legal basis. This is not acceptable from a legal point of view.” ARD reports that a group of athletes are planning a challenge to WADA’s ‘whereabouts requirements’ at Germany’s federal constitutional court (Bundesverfassungsgericht).

Germany’s national anti-doping agency (NADA) is in favour of the system. “Basically, we support the system”, NADA Managing Director Lars Mortsiefer told ARD. “This is an important first step, so that athletes no longer just accept passively the current situation, but become more outspoken regarding their concerns”.

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