Volume 2, Issue 1 (Originally Published 23 July 2016)
The 2012 Summer Olympic Games, officially the Games of the XXX Olympiad, begin in London on 27 July. The two billion GBP required to stage the Games come from four main sources – ticket sales, broadcast rights, sponsorships, and sales of merchandise.
Laterally-thinking law students might start to wonder about the role that the law plays in this extravaganza. While construction and commercial contracts worth huge sums are necessary to orchestrate global sports spectaculars, the Olympics also share a legal connection with lower-profile events organised by the likes of the Tug of War International Federation, the World Dance Council and the International Dragon Boat Federation. From the humblest dragon boater to the millionaire American basketballers, all competitors must abide by the 2004 World Anti-Doping Code, which harmonises all rules and regulations governing the use and prohibition of drugs in sport. The Code is the product of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), whose current president is John Fahey, the former Australian Minister for Finance and Deregulation.
WADA has been operating from its Montreal headquarters for just a decade, yet it has chalked up an impressive record in matters of international law. Its Code has been accepted by 145 governments throughout the world through the ratification of the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport.
The Convention entered into force in February 2007. It is a legally binding instrument that enables governments to align domestic policy with the Code. Australia ratified the Convention in 2006 and the Commonwealth Parliament passed the Australian Sports Anti‑Doping Authority Act the same year.
The Code is not without controversy. In Europe, debate continues over whether proportionality is respected by the requirement that elite athletes be in a registered testing pool and provide their whereabouts for one hour a day for months in advance. Moreover, the entire Wada approach is based on the creed of "strict liability" – that athletes are ultimately responsible for what goes into their bodies, even if the ingestion is mistaken or innocent, and that missed tests are as serious as failed ones.
More than half of the athletes competing at the 2012 Games will be drug-tested, and the humiliation of being banned from competition and stripped of medals is a strong disincentive to taking performance-boosting substances. It is perhaps a measure of WADA’s success that competitors who hope for glory and sponsorship deals by reducing nanoseconds from their performance times are turning increasingly to high-tech swimming and running outfits like Nike’s Turbospeed suit (no doubt fiercely protected by patent law).