25th February 2015

Prevalence of doping in elite sport likely to be between 14% and 39%

The prevalence of doping in elite sport is likely to be between 14% and 39% of currently elite athletes who intentionally doped, according to a study published by researchers in the Netherlands in January. ‘Prevalence of doping use in elite sports: a review of numbers and methods’ uses a combination of questionnaires using the Randomised Response Technique (RRT) and models of biological parameters to come up with estimates which it claims more accurately reflect the prevalence of doping in elite sports than doping test results, which typically return 1% to 2% of tests as positive.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) welcomed the report as providing credibility to its argument that drug use in sport is higher than the number of adverse analytical findings reported in its Testing Figures Reports. ‘We acknowledge that analytical studies over the years have suggested that the prevalence of doping is considerably higher than the current 1-2% adverse analytical findings range typically reported in our annual Testing Figures Report’, read a 25 February WADA statement.

On 8 July last year, WADA published figures showing 269,878 samples were analysed during 2013, returning ‘total findings’ of 5,962 (2.21%). This includes adverse analytical findings (AAF), atypical findings (ATF) and samples approved for therapeutic use exemption (TUE), but not samples taken under the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) programme. The ABP Report-Blood Analysis showed 23,877 samples were analysed under the ABP programme in 2013, however these figures were not broken down to show ‘total findings’, as they were in the Laboratory Report.

WADA has faced criticism for not publishing details on how many of these doping positives lead to a sanction. It argues that it will only be able to publish global sanctions data when all 144 National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) are using its Anti-Doping Administration & Management System (ADAMS). It currently lists 89 NADOs as using ADAMS – the same number as in July last year.

The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) reported 29 violations out of 9,197 tests in 2013. In 2012, Germany’s anti-doping authority (NADA) reported only two violations out of 8,567 out of competition tests. In 2012, WADA Director General David Howman told media that as many as one in ten athletes competing internationally could be doping.

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