The fight against doping facing the limits of the law
Exclusion for life, extended storage of samples… the fight against doping is intensifying and penalties are tightening. A natural tendency that is justified by the need to devote a fair and exemplary sport. But some measures may raise unprecedented legal questions. Member of the Education Committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Senior Lecturer at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis, member of the Disciplinary Commission of the French Basketball Federation and President of the Ethics Commission of the Côte d'Azur District of the French Football Federation, Marc Peltier is a great specialist in all these questions and offers us a certain number of explanations and avenues for reflection.
Marc Peltier, Lecturer at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis, member of the Education Committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency, member of the Disciplinary Commission of the French Basketball Federation, President of the Côte District Ethics Commission d'Azur of the French Football Federation.
Monegasque Anti-Doping Committee: You are a lecturer in private law and a specialist in sports law. Recent news (suspension of the Russian delegation to the Rio Games, possibility of suspending an athlete for life, increased time limit for the conservation of samples, etc.), shows how much the fight against doping has to rub shoulders with the limits of the law. What are the legal issues that this struggle raises today? How do you think you can overcome them?
Marc Peltier: Sport first spontaneously created its own law. These are the federations that have adopted regulations that have been imposed on athletes. Sanctions were pronounced and were most often accepted. Then the litigation developed and the litigations left the world of sport to be decided by state judges. Sports law had to be confronted with the law itself. From this point of view, the genesis of the latest version of the World Anti-Doping Code is particularly illuminating. A legal opinion has been requested by the World Anti-Doping Agency from the former President of the European Court of Human Rights. The new Code has thus been drafted taking into account the risk of litigation and the risk that an athlete will obtain an annulment of his sanction based on a higher standard. This way of producing legal rules should be encouraged. We certainly need binding rules, but we must also guarantee the fundamental rights of athletes.
You are also a member of the Disciplinary Commission of the French Basketball Federation. Do you notice an evolution in doping behavior? Do you feel that the world of sport is aware of the challenges of doping? As Mr. Sebastian Coe, President of the IAAF, told us, would you say that ultimately, despite the very rich media news and the overexposure it entails, ”we are in a much better situation than 10 years ago and light years away from what we could know 20 or 30 years ago ”?
First of all, it must be recognized that doping cases are quite rare in French basketball. The hearings I attended were more of negligence than heavy doping. Some athletes have also been released. From a more general point of view, it seems difficult to me to assess doping practices. We can only rely on the data of the checks carried out which, after analysis, led to an abnormal result. The difficulty, revealed by recent scandals, is that the fight against doping cannot be based only on control. Investigations must also be developed, which requires significant resources.
Financial stakes or political pressures are not enough to explain the phenomenon of doping. We find doping behaviors at levels that do not know these problems. For you who are a great specialist in doping and who work at several levels (professional with the Basketball Federation, amateur with the Côte d'Azur District of the FFF), what are the springs of doping?
It is true that doping is not limited to the very high level of sport, on the contrary. Studies in social sciences have shown different factors that can encourage an athlete to dope: high self-esteem, return from injury, change of club or level of practice, influence of those around him ... The interest of this research is precisely , for sports institutions, to target fragile athletes and educate them.
The new World Sport Code has been drafted taking into account the risk of litigation and the risk that an athlete will obtain an annulment of his sanction based on a higher standard.
You intervene a lot with schools and universities, at a time when the financial stakes of sport have never been so important, where political pressures are increasingly strong and where the demand for sports entertainment from the public has reached a peak. What are the anti-doping messages that can still pass to young people, athletes or not?
I think we always have to keep in mind the reasons why we play sports. We play sports for the pleasure that this activity provides. We play sports because this activity allows us to get to know each other better, to forge a social bond. We play sport because sport is a school of life. It is very often through sport that we learn to respect the rule. This is the meaning of WADA's message that every athlete has the right to clean sport.
What are the areas of work that should be emphasized in order to improve prevention and awareness of the challenges of the fight against doping?
The fight against doping must be based on repression, but it cannot be effective if it is not also based on education. It is probably in this area that efforts should be made. Controls and investigations are more and more thorough, the methods of analysis have improved, the penalties have been increased and yet it is difficult to say that doping is declining. Stakeholders must also invest in education so that the fight against doping is not seen as a constraint, as it can be for some athletes, but rather as a guarantee of fair competition.
Note from the Monegasque Anti-Doping Committee: The comments made on this site by the people interviewed represent only and solely the opinion of their authors and do not commit the Monegasque Anti-Doping Committee.