The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) issued a report that was highly critical of the efforts of doping control management at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The report suggested that the Olympic anti-doping program teetered on the brink of complete collapse in the face of numerous shortcomings.
The International Olympic Committe (IOC), which was in charge of anti-doping at the Rio Games, only caught 7 athletes guilty of anti-doping rule violations (ADRV) out of the 11,303 athletes who competed in Rio. And only 2 athletes were caught using anabolic steroids. These included athletes in four sports – weightlifting (nandrolone, testosterone, strychnine), cycling (CERA), swimming (hydrochlorothiazide) and track and field (CERA) – but only one medalist.
While conservative estimates suggest that as many as 10 to 20% of athletes used anabolic steroids and/or other performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), the IOC anti-doping test results only found 0.0006% of the athletes to have used PEDs in Rio. This would make it one of the most drug-free Olympics in history.
Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of those 11,303 were never even tested once. Over 70% of Olympic athletes were not even tested a single time. Only 28.6% of the Olympic athletes (3,237 of the 11,303 athletes) were tested during in- and out-of-competitions samples collected at the Rio Games. The Rio doping control management did find a way to test some athletes multiple times. For example, 527 athletes were tested two times, 81 athletes were tested three times and one athlete was even tested six times.
Yet many athletes could not be located at all for testing by the anti-doping organizers. On some days, doping control officers aborted 50% of sample collections because they had no idea where the athletes were staying in the Olympic Athletes’ Village.
The conclusions of the 55-page WADA Independent Observer Report by British attorney Jonathan Taylor were not a major surprise. During the Rio Games, Mario Andrada, the director of communications for Rio 2016, reported major problems in the volunteer staffing of important anti-doping roles in preparation for the Rio Olympics. Rio 2016 originally planned to have 70,000 volunteers to participate in the anti-doping efforts. Budget cuts reduced that number to only 56,000 but less than 40,000 volunteers actually showed up for duty. And the training of those few volunteers that did show up was inadequate.
The WADA IO Report revealed that unpaid anti-doping volunteers were treated very poorly at the Rio Games. For example, they were not properly incentivized with the promised meal vouchers and they were not provided transportation home after being forced to work late. Not surprisingly, many were pushed so hard that they quit.
The shocking incompetence and dysfunction of the anti-doping efforts led one anti-doping official to call it the “worst” in history. In August, Michele Verroken, the former Director of Ethics and Anti-Doping at UK Sport and founding director of Sporting Integrity, called the effort “hugely disappointing”, “incompetent” and thought they would be “lucky to catch anybody”. The WADA IO Report essentially confirmed Verroken’s critical assessment.
One infamous anti-doping expert who predicted the anti-doping farce in Rio was BALCO mastermind Victor Conte.
“I’ve said this before, the Olympic Games is a fraud,” Conte told a local NBC Bay Area television news affiliate in March 2016. “It’s promoted as a fair competition among the nations of the world. What’s fair about these rules when it enables, harbors and promotes the use of drugs?”
“These athletes simply do what they have to do in order to be competitive. And I don’t want to say that everybody’s doing it, because I don’t believe that, but I think it’s the overwhelming majority.”
The 7 anti-doping rule violations, including the 2 steroid positives, at the 2016 Rio Olympics represents a catastrophic failure by even the most conservative standards. If Conte is correct about the pervasiveness of doping in sport, then the war on doping has already been lost.