Going Nowhere -WADA rejects GPS for elite athletes

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Going Nowhere -WADA rejects GPS for elite athletes

Published 12 July 2018

The WADA Ethics Panel has rejected a proposal that the location for elite athletes could be tracked using GPS by their National Anti-Doping Organisation ("NADO") or National Governing Body ("NGB").

The idea was first put forward by a number of elite athletes who proposed that geolocalisation monitoring would be more convenient for elite athletes than the current whereabouts system. At present, to facilitate out-of-competition testing, elite athletes who are part of the registered testing pool are required to provide details of their whereabouts to their NADO or NGB in advance. These details can be updated online as required. Such athletes are required to specify one hour each day in which they must be available for testing in their given location.

Some athletes criticised criticised as not allowing for circumstances such as spontaneous visits during a holiday period, in particular where internet access is an issue and so an athlete's whereabouts cannot be easily updated.

The review noted that the current whereabouts system has been endorsed by the European Court of Human Rights on public interest grounds. The Court held that the restrictions on rights could be justified due to the fear of the increased danger of doping if such measures were not in place.

In this regard, the GPS tracking proposals may well in fact fall foul of the GDPR and the general EU law principle of proportionality. It would pose a significant threat to the privacy of athletes. As noted in the report, the location data would need to be stored at a centralised location. This means it would be highly susceptible to cyber attacks such as those perpetrated by "Fancy Bears".

Consent would not be a valid legal basis for tracking because the consent would not be truly optional. While the public interest ground could arguably be a basis for processing for NADOs which are public bodies, the proposal would be likely to be found to be disproportionate and would bring little added benefit compared to the current system.

There are also obvious concerns regarding the potential for manipulation of tracking devices themselves, together with their limitations (for example in rural areas or areas with bad GPS signal).

In addition, while the geolocalisation would be able to pinpoint the location of an athlete at any given time, NADOs require time to plan and implement a testing strategy and so athletes would still be required to submit their whereabouts on a quarterly basis to facilitate such planning.

All of this added up to the WADA Ethics Panel rejecting the idea.

Authors

Gary Rice

Gary Rice

Dublin

+353 (0)1 231 9654

Aideen Ryan

Aideen Ryan

Dublin

+353 (0)86 042 4405

Brian Ormond

Brian Ormond

Dublin

+353 (0) 12319691

Aidan Healy

Aidan Healy

Dublin

+353 (0)123 19669

Niall Sexton

Niall Sexton

Dublin

+353 (0)1 231 9675

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