Back in 2020 Russia was banned from the Olympics, and more recently in 2022, they were also unable to take part in the world cup finals. This was due to a four-year ban that the country had been handed. This ban meant that Russia could not compete in all major sporting events for 4 years, following an investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)

This is a recent display of how doping affects the world of sports, but what is doping and why is it still an issue in 2023? 


What is doping? 


Doping is defined as the use of banned athletic performance-enhancing drugs. The use of such drugs is considered unethical as they are designed to enhance performance. Banned substances include steroids and growth hormones. But doping can include other methods, including increasing oxygen in the bloodstream, through blood transfusions.


Doping is the act of consuming artificial and often illegal substances to gain an advantage over others in sporting competitions (anabolic steroids, human growth hormones, stimulants, and diuretics for example).



The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) consistently updates the list of banned substances and methods, but currently, they include: 


  • Non-approved substances 
  • Anabolic agents 
  • Peptide hormones, growth factors, related substances, and mimetics 
  • Beta-2 agonists
  • Hormone and metabolic modulators 
  • Diuretics and masking agents 
  • Manipulation of blood and blood components 
  • Chemical and physical manipulation 
  • Gene and cell doping 
  • Stimulants 
  • Narcotics 
  • Glucocorticoids 
  • Beta-blockers 


How many athlete dope or are doping? 


The World Anti-Doping Agency tests the blood and urine of Olympic athletes every year. With around 1-2% of samples testing positive for prohibited substances. To put this into perspective, there are estimated to be around 10,500 athletes heading to the Paris 2024 Olympics. This would equate to around 105-210 of these 10,500 athletes testing positive. 

However, the actual figure is estimated to be much higher. Shockingly, in a study of athletes in 2011, 57% of competitors admitted to doping within the past year. Because drugs were taken earlier on in the year, it would be impossible to detect these drugs months later, and therefore athletes get away with taking substances. But they are still able to benefit from the performance-enhancing effects. 


Issues with new substances 


Interestingly, although the WADA has a list of banned substances and methods, they are unable to test for performance-enhancing drugs that they haven’t seen before. Meaning that the subject of doping is constantly evolving. Athletes and trainers develop and innovate new drugs and methods to remain one step ahead. So there is no real accurate number to state how many athletes are actually doping. 


Why is doping a problem in sports? 


Aside from the issue of fairness within sports, and ensuring that no athletes have an unfair advantage, there is also a significant health issue with doping. Between 1987 and 1990, 20 young Belgian and Dutch cyclists died from nocturnal heart attacks after taking the hormone erythropoietin. There was also the situation where a generation of East German athletes had their lives ruined and in some cases, their sexes changed following widespread steroid use.

It is dangerous enough for athletes to dope when they have a team of trainers and medically trained scientists on hand. But when elite athletes dope, so too do those in the ranks below them. Amateur and semi-professional athletes follow their example and it can be significantly more dangerous as they take these drugs without advice. When it was recently found that men who regularly take steroids have three times higher risk of death, this is extremely worrying.


What do athletes say on doping?


Many athletes have been highly critical of doping. In 2008, Paula Radcliffe said: 

“ Running is about who works hardest and then runs fastest. It is about getting to the finish first fairly. Every athlete must start from the same point, something that is not possible when some are doping. If you invest so much of yourself, you have a right to fair competition and a right to be able to prove your innocence. That is one of the bugbears of modern sport: how does the successful athlete prove he or she is clean? By passing the tests? Everybody knows the tests are not guaranteed to expose the cheats. We wanted to focus attention on the need for better, more accurate testing and greater use of blood profiling tests. “

The frustration for athletes who don’t take any banned substances or take part in any banned methods is that they invest so much of themselves into training and competing. Only to be beaten by an athlete who has been doping, and in essence, this could be classed as ‘cheating’.

‘Clean’ athletes are the ones who are welcoming Russia’s ban. This happened because Russia planted fake evidence, and deleted files linking to positive doping testing. Which suggested widespread and systematic doping among the Russian athletes and trainers.


What does the future look like for doping?


The World Anti-doping Agency and other anti-doping agencies continue to work to stomp out doping. Highlighting athletes who are doping, removing them from competitions, and identifying newly banned substances. However significantly more funding is required to keep this work proactive and effective.


Contact us


If you’re an athlete and need a sports lawyer, get in touch with our team of experts at Beeston Shenton. Call us at 01782 662424 or email us at