London Aquatics Centre 1121 Resized


Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. There are many threats to the integrity of the sector that have seen individuals, and indeed entire organisations, succumb and compromise their behaviour and the reputation of their sport. Here, we will go into some of those in detail as well as introducing other areas of concern for the sector going into the future.

Anti-doping movement

Since the Russia doping scandal, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the global anti-doping movement has been under sustained pressure to become more accountable and reform.

As a result of this, WADA published a paper, Progress of the Anti-Doping System in Light of the Russian Doping Crisis, which was last updated on 22 January 2019.

WADA’s views of the main issues were:

  1. The cheating in Russia was encouraged, organised, and protected, and thus not detected.
  2. The Moscow and Sochi Laboratories were institutionally controlled, protected and thus the cheating was not detected.
  3. There were no proper channels for whistleblowers to provide information regarding alleged Anti-doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) under the World Anti-Doping Code; non-compliance violations under the Code; or any act or omission that could undermine the fight against doping in sport.
  4. Upon receipt of such information, WADA had no power to investigate until it was accorded those powers within the 2015 Code (which came into force on 1 January 2015).
  5. Following WADA’s independent investigations, there were no defined sanctions agreed by all stakeholders that could be applied and no clear delineation as to which organisations were accountable for applying consequences in relation to outcomes of the investigations.
  6. There was no clear dispute resolution mechanism in place that could have led to a decision being accepted and applied by all anti-doping organisations (ADOs).

Measures WADA has taken to address these issues include:

  • Shifting its focus to ensuring that signatories to the WADA Code have quality antidoping programs in place and, in keeping with strong demand from stakeholders, that their compliance be monitored rigorously. In 2016, WADA initiated development of a certified Code compliance monitoring program that was expanded in 2017. The programme, which represents the most thorough review of anti-doping rules and programmes that has ever taken place, aims to reinforce athlete and public confidence in the standard of ADOs worldwide.
  • In 2017, WADA put in place a working group to review the accreditation process and the quality control of laboratories. The group’s conclusions were adopted by WADA’s executive committee and board in May 2018, with a clear recommendation for more laboratory audits and proficiency testing to take place.
  • With the launch of Speak Up! in March 2017, and the implementation of a whistleblower policy and program, WADA now has a secure, digital platform through which athletes and others can report alleged ADRVs under the Code; non-compliance violations under the Code or any act or omission that could undermine the fight against doping in sport.
  • In June 2016, WADA appointed Gunter Younger, a former Interpol officer and Head of Cyber Security with the Munich police, to set up and head its Intelligence & Investigations (I&I) Department. Since then, the WADA I&I Department has grown to seven staff, Speak Up! has been put in place and, via a new policy approved in May 2017, independence has been given to the I&I Department from the WADA executive committee board and management to ensure that there would be no political interference with their investigations. The policy dictates that the I&I Department is independently audited annually to ensure full compliance of the work conducted. In addition to managing the day-to-day flow of new information, at the end of 2017, the I&I Department had run one long-term project; 10 sophisticated cases; one global operation with Interpol; and had 214 registered cases with the majority having been sent to ADOs for follow up.
  • As a result of the disjointed responses to the Russian Doping Crisis, as well as calls from many in the antidoping community – in particular athletes – to hold ADOs to a higher degree of accountability, the WADA board approved the development of the new International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories (ISCCS), which came into force on 1 April 2018.
  • Implementation of the ISCCS is one of the key legal tools that will avoid the issue where no clear dispute resolution mechanism was in place that could have led to a decision being accepted and applied by all ADOs. The ISCCS creates significantly more legal certainty around roles and responsibilities, sanctions, and mechanisms for independent decisions on these questions. Unless all parties agree, the Court of Arbitration for Sport is the ultimate authority that decides on the appropriate sanctions, thus taking away any political component to these decisions.

In parallel, the UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD) has been subject to a ‘tailored review’ by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the report of which was published in January 2018. In doing so, the DCMS looked at three broad areas: effectiveness, efficiency and corporate governance.

Alongside those related to UKAD’s investigatory processes, key recommendations from the Review included:

  • UKAD to consider reframing its education function into an assurance programme to support NGBs who have varying levels of capacity.
  • Sports in receipt of public funding should report annually on their anti-doping education compliance to UKAD and publish this information on their websites.
  • Home Country Sports Councils to work with UKAD to deliver clean sports education to the ‘talent pathway’.
  • A values-based training programme focusing on ‘healthy training’ (nutrition, sleep, good training practice) is developed to reach young people via the curriculum and early sports pathways.
  • Health harms associated with the abuse of image and performance-enhancing drugs should be integrated into drug information and education.
  • UKAD develops a trust and empowerment culture, with clear and inclusive direction from the chair and CEO.
  • Recommend regular communications with NGBs.
  • UKAD to review annually the most appropriate channels for young elite sports people to receive anti-doping messaging and use that intelligence to shape future social media activity.

Following the report, UKAD published its four-year strategic plan.

Under the Code for Sports Governance, funded bodies need to demonstrate their compliance with UKAD’s assurance framework and comply with the obligations set out in the UK’s National Anti-Doping Policy.

Club Matters provides useful resources on anti-doping.


Gene doping

An emerging threat to the integrity of sport in respect of doping is gene doping.

The possibility of gene doping, defined as the transfer of nucleic acid sequences and/or the use of normal or genetically modified cells to enhance sports performance, is a real concern in sports medicine. The abuse of knowledge and techniques gained in the area of gene therapy is prohibited for competitive athletes.

Currently gene therapy is an experimental medical treatment where, typically, an individual with a malfunctioning gene has that gene replaced by a working copy of the same gene. As yet, there is no conclusive evidence that gene doping has been practised in sports.

However, given that gene therapy techniques improve continuously, the likelihood of abuse will increase.

Gene doping was placed on the WADA banned list in 2003. A year later, it created the Gene and Cell Doping Expert Group, tasked with studying advances in the field, methods of detecting gene doping and overseeing WADA research on the topic. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, athletes’ blood was tested for added copies of a gene coding for EPO, a hormone that increases red blood cell levels.

As regards detection, looking further into the future, WADA have discussed undertaking genetic sequencing of athletes, which would be an extension of an idea of the athlete biological passport (ABP).

Betting integrity and match-fixing

When it comes to match-fixing, the Council of Europe’s definition in its Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions (the Macolin Convention) for the ‘manipulation of sports competitions’ (a broader term which also encompasses match-fixing) is:

‘an intentional arrangement, act or omission aimed at an improper alteration of the result or the course of a sports competition in order to remove all or part of the unpredictable nature of the aforementioned sports competition with a view to obtaining an undue advantage for oneself or for others’.

As a result of technological advances, particularly the emergence and growth of the online gambling market, sports betting opportunities have increased dramatically, both in terms of the number of sports events and the number of betting markets available. Today, sports betting is used by ‘professionals’, including traders to make legitimate profits, but also by criminals for money laundering.

Athletes and officials in certain sports are already, and will further become, targets of criminals in order to manipulate a competition for betting purposes.

Sports betting, particularly online betting websites based in unregulated or lightly regulated jurisdictions, has dramatically increased in recent years and is used as a mechanism for profit for organised crime.

Understanding the threat from match-fixing

Match Fixing

The usual process for match-fixers to make money from the global betting markets can be illustrated like this:

There are a number of reasons why a particular participant may be seen as a potential target by a fixer:

  • whether their salary has been paid
  • addiction – e.g. drugs, sex, alcohol, gambling
  • living beyond personal income and high personal debt
  • greed
  • naivete

The ‘grooming’ of a participant takes place over a period of time whereby, typically, the following steps are undertaken by a ‘corruptor’.


If the participant engages with the match-fixers via the above modus operandi, the likely consequences are:

  • the participant takes the risks, the fixer takes the money
  • when the participant gets caught, the fixer disappears and the participant takes the blame.

Inside information is one particular area of risk. Inside information can be defined as information relating to the participation in, or likely or actual outcome of, an event which is known by an individual as a result of their role in connection with that event and which is not in the public domain. Common types of inside information include:

  • injury news
  • team line-ups
  • a participant’s personal situation
  • a club’s financial situation.

Betting integrity offences

A sport’s betting integrity regulations should contain provisions which address:

  1. betting on the sport in question
  2. misuse of inside information
  3. match-fixing and competition manipulation
  4. failure to report a corrupt approach
  5. failure to cooperate with an investigation.

Attempts at match-fixing, or any of the other unethical conduct stated above, should be prohibited and may be sanctioned.

Tools to protect a sport from competition manipulation

Specialist companies have developed a sophisticated bet monitoring system which monitors worldwide sports betting markets to identify unusual and/or suspicious betting activity and provide real-time alerts. Once such an alert has been made, human analysts in the field of sports betting use this information (together with information from third-party sources) to thoroughly investigate the event and produce detailed reports for the sport.

There are a wide variety of intelligence sources that can help combat and address integrity concerns (and rule breaches). A sport should look to utilise as many of these as possible, including:

  • betting monitoring reports
  • referrals, reports or inquiries from other jurisdictions, including from law enforcement, other sports organisations, the media and so on
  • physical surveillance at competition venues for suspicious behaviour
  • hotlines or other reporting mechanisms.

Consequences of engaging in match-fixing activity

By engaging in match-fixing activity and any related conduct, a participant committing an offence faces three possible consequences:

  • Sporting sanctions – this is usually in the form of a lengthy ban, accompanied by a hefty fine
  • Criminal sanctions – far more serious are the potential criminal sanctions for participants getting embroiled in match-fixing, in particular imprisonment
  • Reputational impact – even when a sporting ban and/or prison term has been served, the longer-term consequence is that the participant’s reputation will be ruined. It is unlikely they will be able to return to their sport in any capacity.

Key messages to participants

Having set out the modus operandi of match-fixers, along with the potential consequences, it is important the message stressed strongly to participants is that it is:

  • your reputation
  • your responsibility
  • your career

Finally, each participant must have the following ‘Three Rs’ at the forefront of their minds:

  • Recognise when a match-fixing approach is being made or when you receive relevant information
  • Resist any attempt to engage in the match-fixing activity by saying ‘no’
  • Report the incident to the appropriate person or through the relevant channel.