Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sport: Response by the International Sports Community

By Pound, Richard | International Journal, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sport: Response by the International Sports Community


Pound, Richard, International Journal


THE SCOPE OF THIS BRIEF ARTICLE is limited to the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport and the response of the international sport community to such use. It does not extend to the so-called recreational or hard drugs, except insofar as they may specifically be included in the rules of particular sports at the international level. The scope is further restricted to those sports and organizations within what has come to be known as the Olympic movement.

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

Sport is a consensual activity, entered into by individuals of their own free will, governed by agreed-upon rules. The rules relate to all aspects of the sporting activity, including the definition of the sport, its rules of play, field of play, nature of the equipment used, age and weight limits for certain sports, and generally all matters germane to the practice of the sport. Of particular interest in this article is the subset of those rules that relate to doping in sport.

Sport occurs within society as a whole. Therefore, the laws of the land pertaining to the use of certain substances or procedures that are regulated, civilly or criminally, necessarily have primacy over the rules of sport agreed to privately. In the tradition of most democratic countries, however, when there are no applicable public laws restricting the actions of individuals, those individuals are free to act as they wish. They may also associate with others and agree to their respective conduct among themselves, including applicable sanctions in the event that conduct to which all agreed is breached. They may form associations to organize their sport relationships - locally, nationally, and internationally. That is how sport has been organized on a worldwide basis.

DRUG USE IN SPORT

Unfortunately, in sport, as in other social activities in which rules of conduct or of law have been established, there has always been some element of cheating. Again as in other elements of society, sport has adopted a combination of education and sanctions to promote compliance with its rules. Just as in society at large, in sport, too, penalties, suspensions, forfeitures of games and events, and all the other sanctions with which we are familiar have been adopted for behaviour that does not comply with established rules and norms. And in sport, too, the sanctions are graduated, depending upon the severity of the breach and the nature of the particular rule.

The focus of this article is the involvement of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in the evolution of 'anti-doping' rules and the procedures for their enforcement.

The IOC was established more than a century ago, in 1894, to renovate the Olympic Games conceived in ancient Greece. It has co-ordinated and supervised the Olympic movement ever since and has stimulated the development of sport on an international basis until some 200 countries now participate in the Games. It is a remarkable achievement, and the Games have become the most important sports event in the world today.

The IOC is a non-governmental organization (NGO) consisting of approximately 115 members who act, on a voluntary basis, as trustees of the Olympic movement. Its headquarters are in Lausanne, and it is organized as an association with legal personality under Swiss law. A permanent staff of slightly more than 100 employees is responsible for its activities and relationships, which are governed by the terms of the Olympic charter. The IOC operates, in a manner akin to governments, by 'recognizing' the international sports federations (IFs) that govern particular sports and the national Olympic committees (NOCs) that agree to subscribe to and be bound by the provisions of the Olympic charter. The responsibilities of NOCs are, inter alia, to promote the Olympic movement within their respective territories and to select the athletes from those territories to participate in the Olympic Games.

In addition to the matters for which it is directly responsible (including the granting of recognition referred to above and the choice of sports on the Olympic programme and sites for Olympic Games), the IOC exercises a co-ordinating role within the Olympic movement.

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