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Fairer Sport

How the blockchain can be used to combat doping in sports.

Author: Charles Gibson

    The results of a sporting event are outcomes of the performance of competitors: either in teams or as individuals. Certain substances can improve such performance to more than natural levels. They are known as doping substances. The history of doping as we know it today dates back to the 1960 Olympics where the first doping scandal occurred. Since then, people have been trying to fight it. These performance enhancement drugs are not fair since they lead to inconsistent results and unfair compensation for those who exploit them. This is why anti-doping testing started to take place in different sports events such as the Olympics, cycling races, football tournaments, and many others. Taking these tests has always been a problem in terms of organization, logistics, bribes, and corruption. Everybody knows the story of Lance Armstrong: the famous cyclist who won the Tour de France 7 times consecutively. Financially speaking the winner of the tour gets around five hundred thousand euros, therefore the American cyclist won around 3.5 million euros unfairly, not counting the advertisement and endorsement money. To tackle the occurring of these scandals and making events as fair as possible, organizations such as the International Testing Agency (ITA) were created.

    I guess you are wondering how this will work and why should they do it from an economic standpoint. Every year the antidoping spending amounts to 300 million dollars. 180 million are spent in testings, and one-third of that amount is due to recollecting and storing tests safely. This quantity is a lot since it amounts to 50 percent of the testing alone. With blockchain technology, this cost will only be the one to set up the network which usually goes up to just 200,000 $. Also, this only leaves a small margin for error since the only way to cheat from now on is in the testing, and if done correctly there are little chances for mistakes which is the responsibility of the anti-doping agency. Also, blockchain makes it easier to trace athletes' reports since they will be in the players' digital passport. This costs savers make a lot of sense and not only that, since it will be much more secure and room for mistakes becomes smaller there is less chance of fraud from athletes.

    The anti-doping organizations do not get a lot of attention but are indirectly responsible for many outcomes not only in sportsmanship but also financially. There are many organizations like the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) which is the leader on anti-doping testing and performs the testing in the Olympics. More recently, the ITA has been working on some exciting new progress with blockchain that will help prevent doping scandals and hacking as the WADA has had. For example, in 2015 Microsoft reported cybersecurity concerns following the hack of many computers of different doping organizations by Russia. 

     Blockchain technology has been introduced in this highly sensitive area of sport because of its high level of security, speed, and transparency. These matters are of huge importance in many circumstances and, in sports where a lot of money is handled, they are needed. The ITA has rapidly gained ground in this area while starting fully operative in 2018 it was going to oversee the 2020  Olympic games anti-doping although the pandemic has not permitted the ITA to prove itself. It has had such a good start on this business because of how it embraces technology, especially blockchain. It started a very interesting project with a company called BlockFactory that will introduce blockchain to the area by creating a digital athlete passport in which all the testing is done to the individual will be stored in this new blockchain and its therefore traceable, transparent, and it will be very difficult to hack. They are even using a mechanism that allows for athletes to take medication that is prohibited if it's needed by any other medical assistance like asthma, with previous permission. Block Factory is using Proxeus which is another company that enables digitizing documents in a blockchain. A so-called digital passport is set up for each athlete. Then, the agency in charge of the testing, the ITA in this case, verifies the information that is stored and secured in the blockchain. Focusing on TUEs therapeutic uses, as soon as the documentation is submitted it will be verified and a hash will be created leaving this information secured in the blockchain. 

     The implementation of blockchain technology may be really groundbreaking in the world of sports: although it will require a degree of changes in how operations are carried out, it will represent a tipping point in ensuring just and fair competition. 

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