Microchips the next step in anti-doping fight, argues Olympians chief

Head of World Olympians Association proposes use of implanted devices to detect banned substances

The head of an international organisation that represents sports people has argued that athletes should be fitted with microchips, like dogs, as the next step in the fight against doping.

Mike Miller, chief executive of the World Olympians Association, claimed that technological advances will soon make it possible for athletes' bodies to be implanted with devices that not only track their movements but also test for banned substances around the clock.

Speaking at a London conference on integrity in sport, he waved away concerns over privacy, claiming the measure would be help to stay one step ahead of dopers.

"Some people say we shouldn't do this to people. Well, we're a nation of dog lovers, we're prepared to chip our dogs and it doesn't seem to harm them, so why aren't we prepared to chip ourselves?" Miller argued.

Miller's argument centred on the notion that anti-doping tests can only give a positive or negative result at a specific moment in time, the suspicion being that dopers are increasingly wise as to how and when to take banned substances while avoiding detection.

The biological passport was introduced in 2008 to give a wider, longer-term testing perspective, while all athletes are subject to random drugs tests and must keep WADA notified of their whereabouts at all times.

"In order to stop doping we need to chip our athletes where the latest technology is there. Microchips get over the issue of whether the technology can be manipulated because they have no control over the device," said Miller. "The problem with the current anti-doping system is that all it says is that at a precise moment in time there are no banned substances but we need a system which says you are illegal substance-free at all times and if there are changes in markers they will be detected.

"I'm just throwing the idea out there. I'm gauging reaction from people but we do need to think of new ways to protect clean sport. I'm no Steve Jobs but we need to spend the money and use the latest technology."

The proposal is bound to raise concerns, not least regarding a possible invasion of privacy and freedom. That was touched upon by fellow conference member Nicole Sapstead, the head of UK Anti Doping, who also questioned whether the technology could ever be completely effective. 

"We welcome verified developments in technology which could assist the fight against doping. However, can we ever be sure that this type of thing could never be tampered with or even accurately monitor all substances and methods on the prohibited list?" she asked.

"There is a balance to be struck between a right to privacy versus demonstrating that you are clean. We would actively encourage more research in whether there are technologies in development that can assist anti-doping organisations in their endeavours."

Miller brushed off concerns over privacy, adding: "Sport is a club and people don't have to join the club if they don't want to, if they can't follow the rules."

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