WMA Calls For Tougher Action To Combat Doping In Sport

New ethical guidelines for physicians designed to combat the increasing incidence of doping in sport have been agreed by the World Medical Association.

In a Statement approved at the WMA's annual General Assembly meeting in Tel Aviv today, the world's physicians are warned that the use of doping practices is a violation of their medical oath. It states that the problem of doping is a threat to the health of athletes and young people in general, as well as being in conflict with the principles of medical ethics.

The WMA calls on all physicians to oppose doping in sport and to refuse to administer or condone any means or methods which are not in accordance with medical ethics, and which might be harmful to the athletes using them.

Among the means identified in the statement are:

  • procedures which artificially modify blood constituents or biochemistry.

  • the use of drugs or other substances whatever their nature and route of administration, including central-nervous-system stimulants or depressants and procedures which artificially modify reflexes.

  • pharmacological interventions that may induce alterations of will or general mental outlook.

  • procedures to mask pain or other protective symptoms if used to enable the athlete to take part in events when lesions or signs are present which make his participation inadvisable.

  • measures which artificially change features appropriate to age and sex.

  • training and taking part in events when to do so would not be compatible with preservation of the individual's fitness, health or safety.

  • measures aimed at an unnatural increase or maintenance of performance during competition. Doping to improve an athlete's performance is unethical.

Dr Anders Milton, chairman of the WMA Council, said: 'There is so much national and commercial interest in sport that there is often pressure on doctors to help sportsmen and women, even though they may be injured or out of form. There is also pressure on doctors to prescribe medicines that can increase the performance of athletes.

'This WMA statement makes it clear that doctors should put the interests of their patients first. We should never endanger a person's health in order for them to win glory or money'.

Today's WMA statement follows its call earlier this year for all its 71 national member associations to take a leading role in uncovering and prohibiting doping in sport. The association has said that doping is systematically being used in the professional sports world, as well as at the amateur sports level, often with even more dangerous drugs.

It has urged the medical profession to rally to oppose doping and censure any physicians who involve themselves in doping whether for the sake of their own profit or for the misunderstood intention of helping the athletes involved.

The WMA has declared that a physician who participates in doping is conducting himself in an unethical and, in some cases, criminal manner and it has described as spurious and unacceptable the argument that if physicians did not involve themselves, the athletes' health would be placed in even greater danger. This was nothing less than poor alibi which any physician involving himself provides to sports promoters for the abuse taking place.

The WMA is also calling for international action to limit the access of some substances, even where they are available over the counter in pharmacies.