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Geolocalisation of athletes for out-of-competition drug testing: ethical considerations. Position statement by the WADA Ethics Panel
  1. Pascal Borry1,
  2. Timothy Caulfield2,
  3. Xavier Estivill3,
  4. Sigmund Loland4,
  5. Michael McNamee5,
  6. Bartha Maria Knoppers6
  7. on behalf of the WADA Ethics Panel
  1. 1 Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  2. 2 Faculty of Law and School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
  3. 3 Genetics Program, Sidra Medical and Research Centre, Doha, Qatar
  4. 4 Department of Cultural and Social Studies, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  5. 5 College of Engineering, Swansea University, Swansea, UK
  6. 6 Centre of Genomics and Policy, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Professor Pascal Borry, Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law, Leuven 3000, Belgium; pascal.borry{at}


Through the widespread availability of location-identifying devices, geolocalisation could potentially be used to place athletes during out-of-competition testing. In light of this debate, the WADA Ethics Panel formulated the following questions: (1) should WADA and/or other sponsors consider funding such geolocalisation research projects?, (2) if successful, could they be proposed to athletes as a complementary device to Anti-Doping Administration and Management System to help geolocalisation and reduce the risk of missed tests? and (3) should such devices be offered on a voluntary basis, or is it conceivable that they would be made mandatory for all athletes in registered testing pools? In this position paper, the WADA Ethics Panel concludes that the use of geolocalisation could be useful in a research setting with the goal of understanding associations between genotype, phenotype and environment; however, it recognises that the use of geolocalisation as part of or as replacement of whereabouts rules is replete with ethical concerns. While benefits remain largely hypothetical and minimal, the potential invasion of privacy and the data security threats are real. Considering the impact on privacy, data security issues, the societal ramifications of offering such services and various pragmatic considerations, the WADA Ethics Panel concludes that at this time, the use of geolocalisation should neither be mandated as a tool for disclosing whereabouts nor implemented on a voluntary basis.

  • doping

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  • Contributors The WADA Ethics Panel discussed this topic during its meeting in Montreal on 7-8 March 2016 and in Lausanne on 12 March 2017. The WADA Athlete Committee was consulted in the preparation of this position paper. PB drafted the first version of the manuscript and coordinated suggested revisions. TC, XE, SL, MM and BMK critically revised the manuscript. All coauthors approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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