Document Type

Brief

Category

Integrity in Brief

Publication Date

2017

Abstract

The International Olympic Committee first began drug-testing in response to the death of Knud Enemark Jensen, a Danish cyclist who collapsed of heatstroke during the 1960 Olympics in Rome and whose autopsy suggested that amphetamines played a role in his death. A wide range of performance enhancing substances was formally banned, and doping tests were administered to preserve the integrity of competition and to protect the health of athletes. The IOC’s initial regime was neither systematic nor robust, lacking both methodologically and technologically. However, the gap between doping and monitoring gradually began to close as testing became more accurate and reliable, beginning with the IOC’s first testing procedure for anabolic steroids in 1976 and highlighted by the disqualification of Canadian Sprinter Ben Johnson for a positive anabolic steroid test after winning the 100m sprint at the 1988 Olympic games.

The IOC’s early anti-doping efforts achieved modest success, but illicit drug use rapidly pervaded other competitions, notably cycling and track and field. The 1998 Tour de France, ignominiously dubbed the “Tour du Dopage” by media sources, was ravaged by various doping scandals. Prior to the race, the nine-member Festina team was disqualified after customs officers discovered a large supply of doping products at the Belgian-French border, as well as a document outlining systematic drug programs for each of Festina’s riders. After retrospective drug tests, 92% of participants who were either tested or confessed to drug use, including 9 of the top 10 finishers, were found to have used Erythropoietin, an IOC-prohibited hormone that significantly boosts red blood cell production.

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