Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Anti-doping, purported rights to privacy and WADA’s whereabouts requirements: A legal analysis

Oskar MacGregor, Richard Griffith, Daniele Ruggiu, Mike McNamee


Recent discussions among lawyers, philosophers, policy researchers and athletes have focused on the potential threat to privacy posed by the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) whereabouts requirements. These requirements demand, among other things, that all elite athletes file their whereabouts information for the subsequent quarter on a quarterly basis and comprise data for one hour of each day when the athlete will be available and accessible for no advance notice testing at a specified location of their choosing. Failure to file one’s whereabouts, or the non-availability for testing at said location on three occasions within any 18-month period constitutes an anti-doping rule violation that is equivalent to testing positive to a banned substance, and may lead to a suspension of the athlete for a time period of between one and two years. We critically explore the extent to which WADA’s whereabouts requirements are in tension with existing legislation on privacy, with respect to UK athletes, who are simultaneously protected by UK domestic and EU law. Both UK domestic and EU law are subject to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) Article 8, which establishes a right to “respect for private and family life, home and correspondence”. We critically discuss the centrality of the whereabouts requirements in relation to WADA’s aims, and the adoption and implementation of its whereabouts rules. We conclude that as WADA’s whereabouts requirements appear to be in breach of an elite athlete’s rights under European workers’ rights, health & safety and data protection law they are also, therefore, in conflict with Article 8 of the ECHR and the UK Human Rights Act 1998. We call for specific amendments that cater for the exceptional case of elite sports labour if the WADA requirements are to be considered legitimate.

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