Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Presumed Guilty

Maria Sharapova’s 15-month suspension ends on 26 April. Many of her sponsors have maintained that she is an innocent victim of a flawed anti-doping system. Credit: Yann Caradec CC BY-SA 2.0

Maria Sharapova’s 15-month suspension ends on 26 April. Many of her sponsors have maintained that she is an innocent victim of a flawed anti-doping system. Credit: Yann Caradec CC BY-SA 2.0

By Stephen Moston & Terry Engelberg

A study of 100 cases of doping in sport has concluded that the system is flawed.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Imagine a criminal justice system based on a presumption of guilt. In this system, prosecutions would be based on evidence with no clear scientific basis, and the defence cannot dispute or in any way question that evidence.

Into that system place a suspect, an otherwise upstanding citizen with no intention of committing any offence. Accuse that person of an offence, which even the prosecution agrees was so utterly inconsequential that no objective harm was done, and that the suspect did not benefit in any conceivable way.

Finally, imagine that the whole system is overseen by an organisation with a vested interest in ensuring a high conviction rate. It’s a bit far-fetched, isn’t it?

Except it’s not. This is essentially the system in place for dealing with athletes suspected of doping. If that sounds like a cynical take on things, John Fahey, former President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), recently described the system as “a strange set of rules which effectively says if the drug is in your system, guilt is a given and the only room left is to endeavour to reduce the sanction”. Forget innocent until proven guilty. This is guilty until proven innocent, and then still guilty.

Doping, defined in a somewhat circular fashion as a breach of anti-doping rules, exists as an offence where the public perception of an offender is in many cases...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.