Innocence has to be proven: athletes shocked by skin-contact doping

Innocence has to be proven
Athlete shocked by skin contact doping

The experiment on skin contact doping is shaking up the sports world. The ARD documentation causes many athletes to fear that they will be accidentally convicted of doping. The Athletes Germany Association calls for a possible change in the burden of proof.

According to the ARD documentary “Doping as a secret matter – guilty. How athletes can become dopers unintentionally”, the Association Athletes for Germany demanded an immediate, objective and nuanced discussion about a possible change in the reversal of the burden of proof. “The findings of the film make it clear that the rules of the anti-doping fight are in conflict with the human rights presumption of innocence,” said a statement by the athletes’ representatives. “Ultimately, it must be clarified whether and what adjustments there could be in the anti-doping fight in order to protect the fundamental rights of athletes and at the same time not to endanger the effectiveness of the anti-doping fight.”

In an experiment by the ARD doping editorial team and the Institute for Forensic Medicine at the University Clinic in Cologne, twelve test subjects were given small amounts of various anabolic steroids through the skin using a carrier substance – with minimal contact on the hand, neck and arm. The initial evaluations of the samples by the Cologne doping control laboratory revealed massive suspicions of fraud in all test subjects. In the experiment, the prohibited substances were administered in minimal doses and in some cases were detectable as early as one hour after application and for up to 15 days.

Shifting the burden of proof is a problem

The reversal of the burden of proof is a central and important component of the anti-doping fight, as IOC President Thomas Bach emphasized. In sports law, unlike in criminal law, the presumption of innocence does not apply – the athlete must prove that he has not knowingly doped, otherwise he will be banned, even without proof of guilt. If they turn back, many see the danger of issuing a free ticket to the machinations of fraudsters. On the other hand, possible innocent victims of attacks would be “collateral damage”.

Athletes Germany demands an immediate and appropriate reaction from the World Anti-Doping Agency WADA, which reacted cautiously to the documentation. “In the future, it must be made easier for athletes to prove their innocence. In addition, the investigative and analytical capacities of anti-doping organizations must continue to be strengthened.”

Lars Mortsiefer, board member of the National Anti-Doping Agency, said in the ARD sports show that WADA might have to adapt the system. International doping investigator Richard McLaren said that if the burden of proof were reversed, the current anti-doping system would “collapse”.