Doping is remarkably widespread among elite athletes and remains largely unchecked despite the use of sophisticated biological testing methods. This is according to Rolf Ulrich of the University of Tübingen in Germany and Dr. Dawn Comstock, professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. They are lead authors of a study in Springer’s journal Sports Medicine.
The researchers conducted anonymous surveys among athletes competing at two major sports events in 2011. At least 30 to 45 percent of athletes at these events acknowledged that they had used banned doping substances or methods in the previous year. This is a serious concern because doping not only compromises fair play, but it is potentially detrimental to the health of athletes.
Biological tests of blood and urine typically detect doping in only one to three percent of competitors at elite international competitions. However, the new study suggests that the true rate of doping is far greater, because cutting-edge doping schemes seem to make it possible for many athletes to beat the biological tests currently in place to detect prohibited doping.
“These findings suggest that biological testing greatly underestimates the true prevalence of doping in elite athletics,” said Comstock. “It indicates the need for future studies of the prevalence of doping in athletics using randomized response techniques to protect the anonymity of the athletes.”