Is There Widespread Systemic Use of Banned Performance-Enhancing Drugs by Olympic Athletes?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
James Skinner, MBA, PhD, Director of the Institute for Sport Business and Associate Dean for Enterprise at Loughborough University, stated the following in his Aug. 8, 2012 article titled "How Many Olympic Athletes Are Taking Drugs?," available at The Conversation website:

"A number of athletes were banned for doping violations before the [London Olympic] Games began. But how big is the problem? What percentage of athletes are involved in illegal drug use?...

The data suggest that doping is a relatively rare occurrence. But few regard such statistics as a reliable measure of the true incidence of doping. Essentially, these figures merely tell us how many athletes have tested positive, not how many are actually using drugs and avoiding detection...

[T]he International Olympic Committee has been accused of lacking commitment to detecting drugs in sport. The Sydney Olympics was initially lauded as a victory for anti-doping campaigners. But more medals have been stripped from cheating athletes after Sydney than any Olympics before or since, including those from Marion Jones...

But the true incidence of doping in sport is difficult to quantify. At one extreme, the answer is zero; at the other extreme the answer is everyone."

Aug. 8, 2012 - James Skinner, MBA, PhD 



PRO (yes)

An Independent Commission presided over by Richard Pound, BCL, former President of World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), stated the following in its Nov. 9, 2015 report to WADA:

"The investigation has confirmed the existence of widespread cheating through the use of doping substances and methods to ensure, or enhance the likelihood of, victory for athletes and teams...

Although the IC [Independent Commission] report and recommendations are confined to Russia and athletics, the IC wishes to make it clear that, in its considered view, Russia is not the only country, nor athletics the only sport, facing the problem of orchestrated doping in sport...

Athletics is an important sport within the Olympic Movement and Russia is an important country in world sport. Such importance should be reflected by leadership in the fight against doping in sport, not the reverse. The IC has found that not only was leadership in the fight against doping in sport lacking, but also that there were organized efforts on the part of many senior coaches and officials, inside and outside Russia, to promote doping and make it possible for such efforts to be successful, including the cover-up of certain positive cases of doping."

Nov. 9, 2015 - The Independent Commission Report #1 (2MB)  



Paul Hayward, Chief Sports Writer for the Telegraph Media Group, stated the following in his Nov. 9, 2015 article titled "Wada Report on Doping: This Scandal Is Not Just a Russian Problem, It Is an Issue Worldwide," available at the Telegraph website:

"To make Fifa look slightly less bad is quite an achievement for Olympic sports, where endemic cheating first set in during the Cold War and has mutated relentlessly into new forms. If in doubt, consider the 'dirtiest race in history' – the 1988 Olympic 100 metres final in Seoul, 'won' by Ben Johnson – the Balco scandal in America, widespread busts in Jamaican track and the East German state doping programme, with its echoes of Russian activities now. Even now the 100m is plagued with convicted dopers. The suppression of positive samples has been a talking point in track and field for decades."

Nov. 9, 2015 - Paul Hayward 



Victor Conte, Founder and former President of Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), was quoted in the May 6, 2008 BBC Sport article "Conte Labels Olympics 'A Fraud'" by Matt Slater, as having stated:

"I have been told by Olympic officials that there have been positive drug tests that have been covered up...

They (the officials) have direct knowledge of this and at some point this information will come out. I believe it will all be revealed when some of these officials are subpoenaed and under oath in a federal court...

At that point in time, I think you are going to see that there has been rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs at the elite level of sport - Olympic and professional - for decades... Without going into specific numbers, it's the overwhelming majority in my opinion."

May 6, 2008 - Victor Conte 



Ivan Waddington, PhD, Visiting Professor at the Centre for Research into Sport and Society at the University of Chester and Visiting Professor at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, in his Oct. 4, 2000 International Herald Tribune article "Olympic Tests for Drugs Need a Shot of Candor," wrote:

"According to the IOC [International Olympic Committee] director general, François Carrard, the fact that only eight athletes out of 11,000 Olympic competitors tested positive is proof that 'the war on doping is being won.' But the argument that the small number of athletes testing positive is indicative of the low prevalence of doping is nonsense.

The number of positive tests is an extremely poor indicator of the prevalence of doping...There is general recognition among those involved in elite level sport that those testing positive represent only the tip of the iceberg. It is impossible to estimate precisely how big that iceberg is, but it is clearly very large.

While some sports, for example badminton and handball, appear to be relatively drug-free, the recent history of sports such as cycling, weightlifting and, increasingly, track and field and swimming is synonymous with doping. By 1968 an estimated one-third of the U.S. track and field team used steroids in their preparation for the Mexico Olympics. There is no evidence that drug use has since declined...

Firstly, drug-using athletes often beat tests because they have access to specialized medical advice from sports physicians...Secondly, there is evidence of collusion between dope-using athletes and senior officials. Positive tests have been 'lost' at several Olympics. Dr. Wade Exum, former chief doping officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee, recently claimed positive tests on American athletes were concealed, while Robert Voy, formerly the committee's chief medical officer, claimed in a sworn affidavit that the committee routinely covered up positive tests. In his recent book, 'Positive,' the Australian discus thrower, Werner Reiterer, claimed he was tipped off by Australian officials about when tests were to take place."

Oct. 4, 2000 - Ivan Waddington, PhD 



Karen Goldberg Goff, a writer for Washington Times, in her Mar. 1999 Insight on the News article "Despite Sensitive Testing, Athletes Still Dope to Win," wrote:

"A survey of 1972 Olympians revealed that 68 percent of the participants had used then-legal steroids...It wasn't until the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal that the Olympics began full-scale drug testing...But no testing system is foolproof...

Consider Ben Johnson, the Canadian sprinter who had his Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters revoked after testing positive for steroids. Some experts claim almost all of the sprinters on the track had taken some form of drugs at some time and that Johnson simply was unlucky.

Then there were the East Germans, who won 11 of 13 women's swimming events in Montreal in 1976 and continued to dominate swimming through the 1988 Games. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, documents were released revealing that the communist government fed its athletes massive doses of steroids -- about 10 times what Johnson was accused of taking in Seoul...Athletes who couldn't tolerate steroids were kicked out of the program."

Mar. 1999 - Karen Goldberg Goff 



CON (no)

The Associated Press stated the following in its Jan. 28, 2014 article titled "Drug-testing Net in Place for Sochi," available at espn.go.com:

"International Olympic and anti-doping officials are implementing the toughest drug-testing program in Winter Games history, using intelligence to target athletes and events considered most at risk. Authorities are focusing their efforts on weeding out dopers through rigorous pre-Games and precompetition tests. Armed with an improved scientific method that can detect drug use going back months rather than days, the International Olympic Committee will conduct a record number of tests...

The Winter Olympics have produced only a small number of positive tests over the years as they involve far fewer athletes than the Summer Games and fewer sports with a record of doping...

Since testing began at the Winter Olympics in 1968, only 20 doping cases have been reported by the IOC."

Jan. 28, 2014 - Associated Press 



Jacques Rogge, MD, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the time of the quote, was quoted in the July 10, 2008 USA Today article "IOC Targeting Drug Cheats in Beijing" by Stephen Wilson, as having said:

"Athletes know that we are going to chase them. Finding a hiding place is becoming more and more difficult.

The vast majority of the athletes are clean...

There is a minority of people who are cheating, and that taints the whole sport. People have suspicions about world records and major victories which are, in fact, unfair...

There has not been a major breakthrough in testing, but I don't think there has been a major breakthrough in cheating either."

July 10, 2008 - Jacques Rogge, MD 



Marc S. Reisch, MA, Senior Correspondent at Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), in his Aug. 11, 2008 article "Drugs at the Starting Line," wrote:

"[O]fficial statistics don't prove widespread doping. According to IOC, officials identified only 26 doping cases - just 0.7% of tests conducted - during the 2004 Athens Olympics. At Sydney in 2000, testing revealed only 11 cases of doping - fewer than 0.5% of tests conducted...

In 2007, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which coordinates testing of U.S. Olympic athletes in training, reported potential doping violations for 48 U.S. athletes, or just 0.6% of samples. The agency sanctioned 15 athletes, including three who did not report for tests. Another 25 cases resulted in a determination of no violation, and eight others are awaiting resolution.

But just because few athletes are caught cheating doesn't necessarily mean that doping is rare."

Aug. 11, 2008 - Marc S. Reisch, MA 



Simon Barnes, Chief Sportswriter at The Times, was quoted in the Aug. 13, 2004 Times Online article "Briefing: Simon Barnes on the Olympic Doping Scandal," as having stated:

"There is a major drugs scandal at every Games. The Olympics is sport played for extremely high stakes and when the stakes are high, people will do things like this. There is a continuing arms race between the dopers and the testers.

This doesn't imply that doping is endemic at the Games. Out-of-competition testing is rigorous in all Olympic sports, and you have to be incredibly clever and devious to get through. You have to be an exceptional person to get away with it.

Of course, there are a few exceptional people at the Games. I am not saying that every athlete is tainted, only that there will always be a few people who try to break the rules when the stakes are high. It is a given of human nature."

Aug. 13, 2004 - Simon Barnes 



Andrew Pipe, MD, Medical Director of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Minto Prevention and Rehabilitation Centre, and Paul C. Hébert, MD, Professor of Medicine, Surgery, Anesthesiology, and Epidemiology at the University of Ottawa, in their Aug. 12, 2008 Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) editorial "Doping, Sport and the Community," wrote:

"Doping strategies often seem to outpace antidoping programs. There will always be those who seek to gain unfair advantage...

Athletes are now competing on an Olympic stage. Some performances may be suspect and proven to be illegitimate. But the overwhelming majority of athletes will compete fairly and cleanly. Sadly, their accomplishments are sometimes overshadowed by the debased conduct of a minority."

Aug. 12, 2008 - Paul C. Hébert, MD 
Andrew Pipe, MD