An Olympic sports executive in Great Britain suggested a unique idea to stop athletes from doping: Microchip them, just as you would a canine.
“Some people say we shouldn’t do this to people,” World Olympians Association CEO Mike Miller said (via the Guardian) during a speech at the Westminster Media Forum on integrity in sport in London this week. “Well, we’re a nation of dog lovers; we’re prepared to chip our dogs and it doesn’t seem to harm them, so why aren’t we prepared to chip ourselves?”
Miller, who admitted he was “no Steve Jobs” during the speech, didn’t elaborate on how exactly this would work but said the technology is coming soon and would allow anti-doping agencies to monitor athletes at all times, not just periodically through collected samples.
“We need to keep in front of the cheats,” he continued (via the Telegraph). “I believe that, in order to stop doping, we need to chip our athletes where the latest technology is there.”
Miller’s comments, which he stressed were his personal opinion and not that of his organization, which claims to represent more than 120,000 current and former Olympians, were met with fierce rebuttal from others in the industry, including from United Kingdom Anti-Doping boss Nicole Sapstead.
“We welcome verified developments in technology which could assist the fight against doping. However, can we ever be sure that this type of thing could never be tampered with or even accurately monitor all substances and methods on the prohibited list?” she said in a statement (via ESPN). “There is a balance to be struck between a right to privacy versus demonstrating that you are clean. We would actively encourage more research in whether there are technologies in development that can assist anti-doping organisations in their endeavors.”
The World Anti-Doping Agency echoed Sapstead’s concerns, noting in a statement, “It is important to maintain a balance between anti-doping needs while respecting the rights and privacy of athletes.”
During his speech Tuesday, however, Miller preemptively addressed those privacy concerns, referring to athletic competition as “a club.”
“People don’t have to join the club if they don’t want to follow the rules,” he said.
Following the outrage, Miller on Thursday rolled back his assertions in a statement released by the WOA that said his statements were taken out of context.
“It saddens me that such an important topic has been trivialized by taking out of context one comment among many made to foster debate on how best to strengthen trust in sport and drive the cheats out of sport,” Miller wrote.
Meanwhile, WOA President Joel Bouzou moved to distance the organization from Miller’s comments in the statement, underlining that Miller’s comments “were of a personal nature, as Mike made clear, and do not represent WOA policy.”