The 2018 Commonwealth Games are currently taking place on the Gold Coast of Australia.
With doping still at the forefront of discussions in world sport, especially athletics, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (“ASADA”) implemented a pro-active approach to doping in advance of the Commonwealth Games. More than 3,000 tests were conducted by the ASADA in an effort to identify and remove athletes who may be cheating.
In essence the programme removed ‘cheats’ before the Games began.
The ASADA Chief, David Sharpe, explained:
“if you don’t [remove athletes before they arrive at the Games], clean athletes might not have their chance to stand on the podium and hear their national anthem”.
The approach was not a matter of imposing a general blanket of tests but rather it was intelligence-led. The tests targeted certain athletes instead of implementing a purely random selection of tests. This led to three Australian athletes being caught before the Games and subsequently prevented from being selected for the Games and competing.
Since the Games commenced, not a single athlete has been found doping. Tests have been conducted during the course of the Games but no adverse findings have been made.
This method has paid dividends as athletes who are caught doping were prevented from competing in the Games entirely. This provides an element of assurance and comfort to competing athletes that they are competing on a level playing field where their hopes of achieving a podium finish will not be dashed unfairly and dishonestly by athletes who are doping. This too ensures that the selection process of athletes is fair as athletes doping will not be selected in the place of a clean athlete as they will be tested and caught beforehand.
Indeed, this approach is welcomed and should be adopted ahead of other Games but the chief of the Commonwealth Games Federation warns against organisations becoming complacent that this is the solution to doping. Whilst he praises this method as “the most robust that we have been in preparation for a Games” he adds that more still needs to be done:
“We need now to continue that fight outside Games time, whether that is creating more deterrents or taking more preventative measures to ultimately alter behaviour and let cheats know there is not place for them at the Commonwealth Games”.
As to whether this has raised the bar and will set the standard for future competitions across the world, we will see. This pro-active approach is effective and efficient whilst it also reintroduces integrity back into sport.