Friday, February 23, 2007

Comment: Human Enhancement Technologies in Sport

The Select Committee on Science and Technology today released its Human Enhancement Technologies in Sport report, commissioned in March last year. Mike Morgan, a Solicitor with Hammonds, gives his opinion on key points within the report.

“Among the recommendations which struck me were:
1: Paragraph 57 - Suggestion that WADA-accredited labs should perform testing of commercial supplements for use in sport. If that were allowed to happen, the labs and WADA would be exposing themselves to potential legal action where athletes subsequently test positive for a banned substance emanating from a batch of that supplement. Also, it could lead to a repeat of the ATP debacle from 2003, where a number of players who had tested positive for a prohibited substance (nandrolone, in that particular case) were exonerated because the ATP had approved and apparently provided the suspected batch of contaminated supplements to those players. Whilst the issue of supplements is a very important one and does need further investigation, it is certainly not as black and white as the Committee's recommendation would suggest, particularly not from a legal point of view.”

2: “Paragraph 92 - Recommendation that the length of ban for a first time-offence be increased from two years to four years. This is an issue that has raged for over a decade and is subject to complex legal arguments, so it is surprising that the Committee has spent just one paragraph of the report considering the length of a ban for a first time offence, before recommending that a four-year ban should be applied ‘in all incidences of proven doping’”.

3: “Paragraph 76 - Restricting Olympic participation to athletes who have competed internationally in the 12 months before the Olympics. Twelve months is a very long time for athletes and such a policy would put a lot of unnecessary pressure on athletes to perform, particularly promising young athletes who are on the brink of becoming international. It also does not consider the position of athletes who choose to concentrate on their studies, or even those athletes who choose to ease off in the year prior to an Olympic year (as athletes often do, to minimise the risk of injury that can result from the stress of two consecutive years of hard training)”.

“All in all, the Committee does not appear to have considered the legal ramifications of a lot of their recommendations. On a positive note though, it is encouraging to see the recommendations at paragraphs 121 and 122 that the government should spend more on sports science research, as that is one area in which we are lagging behind some of our European colleagues and certainly behind the US and Australia”.

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