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UKAD Chief wary of idea to implant anti-doping microchips in athletes

Nicole Sapstead, UK Anti-Doping Chief Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

UK Anti-Doping boss Nicole Sapstead has poured cold water on the idea that microchips should be implanted in athletes to make sure they are not cheating.

The idea was raised at a conference in London on Tuesday by ex-World Rugby chief executive Mike Miller, who now heads the World Olympians Association, an organisation that supports 48 national associations and claims to represent 100,000 living Olympians.

Miller said: "In order to stop doping we need to chip our athletes where the latest technology is there. "Some people say it's an invasion of privacy, well, sport is a club and people don't have to join the club if they don't want to, if they can't follow the rules."

The former Channel 4 and BBC sports executive said embedded microchips would enable anti-doping agencies to monitor athletes at all times and not just in the narrow windows of detection provided by traditional tests.

Stressing that he was offering a personal opinion and not WOA policy, Miller added: "Some people say we shouldn't do this to people.

"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's suggestion, however, is very unlikely to find much favour from athletes, many of whom are already subject to regular blood and urine tests and must make themselves available for a no-notice test for an hour each day between 0500 and 2300.

The advent of the biological passport -- a long-term assessment of an athlete's physiology intended to spot deviations from the norm -- has also gone some way to addressing the issue of short detection windows and new doping products that Miller raised.

In a statement, Sapstead said: "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?

"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 endeavours."

The World Anti-Doping Agency expressed its reservations about the idea on Wednesday.

It said in a statement: "While WADA is constantly looking into new technologies that may have the potential to protect clean athletes, it is important to maintain a balance between anti-doping needs while respecting the rights and privacy of athletes."