Blog: Doping in sport – Breaking the veil of secrecy

6 June 2016

Doping programs succeed through secrecy. Breaking the veil of secrecy requires a special person with courage and conviction, and ASADA relies increasingly on the bravery of whistleblowers to expose drug cheats in sport. But is this challenge too great for those wanting clean, fair sport?

In a society where ‘dobbing on a mate’ is considered un-Australian, anti-doping investigators often face the unhappy prospect of closing a case because of insufficient evidence. Unless someone is willing to take a stand, drug cheats can go on to win accolades and the adoration of fans at the expense of clean athletes.

It is not so much the health risks, drug tests and advances in testing technology that keeps drug cheats awake at night. Being exposed is what they fear most. The whistleblower with principle; a values-driven person who knows what the cheat is doing, recognises the unfairness of the doper’s actions, and has the courage to do something about it.

The knowledge of doping misconduct is rarely limited to just the cheat. Teammates, friends, flat mates, health practitioners, support staff, competitors and partners are often in a position to see and hear things that a drug cheat would prefer remain secret. All too often however these people prefer to ignore the problem or worse, be complicit in the secret.

ASADA wants people with knowledge of doping to look beyond this code of silent acceptance. All it takes is one self-empowered person to make a positive contribution by putting the welfare of the drug cheat’s health ahead of their professional or personal relationship. This takes true courage.

Being a whistleblower can be a roller coaster of a ride as experienced by Betsy Andreu who chose to take on the fight of her life, which resulted in Lance Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and being handed a lifetime ban from competition.

Like in Betsy’s case, intelligence from the people within the drug cheat’s community is essential to the performance of anti-doping work. It helps us piece together the doping jigsaw puzzle by identifying emerging trends, potential areas of concern, and importantly, who we should target our testing and investigative resources on. 

Our capability is only as good as the information people of integrity are willing to share with us. Time and time again, the genesis of a positive test by an Australian athlete can be traced back to a single tip-off that was provided to us in confidence by a member of the community. This is a powerful force when you consider that in Australia we have averaged two positive tests a month for the past five years.

A tip-off may not always provide the full picture, but it will usually prompt us to consider a number of other questions about the alleged doping conduct. What substance is being used? Where do they keep it? How do they get it? How do they pay for it? How and when do they administer it? Who else knows about the doping? By providing us with contact details, a whistleblower enables us to gather additional information concerning such questions, which will help us shape our response.

Tip-offs are always treated in the strictest of confidence and we have procedures in place to protect peoples’ identities. 

So now it comes down to you …

Do you know an athlete who is currently doping? Do you know a current or past elite athlete who used to dope? Do you know a support person who is helping an athlete dope or doping an athlete without their knowledge? Does your knowledge of that misconduct sit uneasily with your personal values? If so, we would like to talk with you confidentially on- or off-the-record about what you know.

Help report doping …

Phone: 13 000 27232

Email: stampoutdoping@asada.gov.au

Web: www.asada.gov.au/report-doping

‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ Edmund Burke, Statesman.