Microchip athletes ‘like dogs’ to stop doping, says Olympians’ chief
All athletes should be microchipped, like dogs, to prevent them from doping, one of the country’s leading sports executives has proposed.
Mike Miller, the chief executive of the World Olympians Association and chairman of the Association of Football Agents – and former chief executive of the International Rugby Board (now World Rugby) – said technology was coming that would allow an implant to track people’s movements and detect performance-enhancing drugs in their systems. “We chip our dogs,” he told a Westminster Media Forum on integrity and duty of care in sport. “We’re prepared to do that and it doesn’t seem to harm them. So, why aren’t we prepared to chip ourselves?”
Admitting he was “no Steve Jobs”, the man who leads an organisation which boasts of representing 100,000 living Olympians, also called for drugs cheats to be banned for life. “We need to keep in front of the cheats,” he said. “I believe that, in order to stop doping, we need to chip our athletes where the latest technology is there.
“Some people say it’s an invasion of privacy. It’s a club and people don’t have to join the club if they don’t want to follow the rules.”
Stressing this was his opinion and not that of the WOA, he added: “The technology is not quite there yet but it’s coming. The problem with the current system is that all it says is that, at a precise moment, 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.
“Some people say we shouldn’t do this to people. We’re a nation of dog lovers; we chip our dogs. We’re prepared to do that and it doesn’t seem to harm them. So, why aren’t we prepared to chip ourselves?” Miller is not the first to propose athletes should be microchipped.
The focus has previously been on whether their movements should be tracked, allowing testers to locate them at all times rather than relying on them reporting their whereabouts for one hour per day, as they are required to do now.
But although that would simplify the system for all involved, it would raise issues over the right to privacy and even athlete welfare, given the spate of leaks of medical data by hackers.
The chief executive of UK Antidoping, Nicole Sapstead, was sceptical. “We welcome verified developments in technology which could assist the fight against doping,” she said. “However, can we ever be sure that this could never be tampered with or even accurately monitor all substances and methods on the prohibited list? There is a balance to be struck between a right to privacy versus demonstrating that you are clean.”
Speaking at the same meeting, Sapstead revealed the extent to which doping and athlete welfare were linked, saying that abuse and bullying could put inordinate pressure on an athlete to succeed.