The real cost of doping in sport

Image caption Alberto Contador has been fined as well as stripped of his 2010 Tour De France title and suspended for two years

Financial doping is a phrase much heard these days, referring to sports organisations living beyond their financial means.

But what about actual physical doping; as well as leading to bans on sportsmen and women, could there also be residual knock-on effect on the finances surrounding sport?

The fight against doping in sport has largely concentrated on bans on performing, with the UK's strong performance in this area having seen the likes of sprinter Dwain Chambers and cyclist David Millar serve bans before returning to their sports.

However, as well as the main performance issue there is also a large economic issue - covering everything from sponsorship to prize money to TV revenues.

And one sport's governing body, cycling's UCI, which has been hit by a number of doping scandals in recent years, hopes also adding a financial element - fines as well as bans - will encourage cyclists to adopt doping-free behaviour.

They have hit 2010 Tour De France winner Alberto Contador, stripped of his title after being banned for two years for doping, with sanctions which according to cycling experts could cost him more than 5m euros (£4.15m) in fees, fines and lost earnings.

'Best chemists'

Andy Brown, is editor of magazine World Sports Law Report, and has written extensively about doping issues.

Image caption Sporting authorities are in a constant technological battle with dopers and cheats

He believes there can be a number of financial issues around drug or blood doping.

"The obvious impact would be on sponsorship," says Mr Brown, whose publication is one of the partners of the 2012 Tackling Doping in Sport summit in London.

"If there is a massive contract in the pipeline, or up for renewal, then the last thing you would want is a drug scandal."

In 2006 Phonak, the Swiss sponsor of the cycling team of then-Tour de France winner Floyd Landis, pulled out of the sport after it emerged Landis had failed a drugs test.

The following year, German truckmaker Man backed out as a Tour De France sponsor and a pair of German television stations dropped their coverage of the Tour.

Mobile phone company T-Mobile also withdrew backing for the tour at the end of 2007.

And in a belated harking back to that era last month, 1997 tour winner Jan Ullrich was handed a two-year ban for blood doping.

"Cycling got the perception that it was not about who was the best rider but about who had the best chemists," says Mr Brown.

"There is a danger that if you get repeated occurrences of doping then the public will think it is not a fair competition.

"It has the same effect as match fixing. If there is a perception that things are not on a fair and open level then people are not going to come and watch.

"And sponsors will not want to get involved."

Annual income

When a sport is affected, it is not just the teams, clubs, and administrators who suffer, but athletes, with their large salaries, bonuses, and other financial income sources, also feel the pinch.

"If you are an athlete and get a two-year ban then your earnings are going to be hammered during that time," points out Mr Brown.

Image caption Cycling's image was badly tarnished between the early 1990s and mid-2000s

And, in addition to the earnings drought, cycling, which saw its image tarnished between the early 1990s and mid-2000s, has also imposed a financial penalty on dopers.

The sport' s governing body, the UCI, now includes a financial sanction in addition to the participation ban for any of its licensed riders receiving a two-year drug ban.

The fine can be equal to the offender's "net annual income from cycling" for the year in which the anti-doping offence occurred.

It covers all income from cycling, including employment salary, media work, image rights, sponsorship and any other associated cycling income.

The belief is that many, if not most, of these other income streams come about from the offender's position as a cyclist - but one who has had their status artificially boosted through illegal means.

The sanction was introduced by the UCI as part of a "commitment to a new cycling".


However, there is an appeal process which can see the amount of fine paid reduced to 35% of gross salary, and there are also ongoing legal hearings into the validity of the UCI rule.

And there are critics of the rule who believe it is not compatible with either the World Anti Doping Agency (Wada) rules, or Swiss law (the UCI is based in the country).

"I think it is against the Wada code," says lawyer Antonio Rigozzi of Levy Kaufmann Kohler legal firm, an expert on doping regulations

Despite the financial riches to be gained by becoming a leading global sportsperson, one senior adviser on sport doping issues says the prime motivation is often glory not money.

"It is up to the individual sportsperson, and the sport involved," says Mike Morgan, a lawyer in the Sports Law Group of solicitors Squire Sanders in London.

"Some people are only interested in the glory of winning a medal, but I am sure there is an element of athletes who are taking substances for financial gain."

Being the best in your field of breaking a record can potentially bring lucrative sponsorship and endorsement contracts.

"For me I don't think it is about people deliberately taking drugs to beat the system," adds Mr Morgan.

"The majority of cases we come across are people taking banned medication inadvertently, or not checking the banned substances list properly."

And he believes that if any doping cases are discovered at this year's Olympic Games that they will fall into this type of category.

'Making efforts'

Mr Morgan says that sports face a "double-edged sword" in their anti-doping efforts.

If they get their act together and thoroughly investigate, then they could uncover many doping cases that leave the sport looking as though it has a drug problem.

But if they do nothing then they run the risk of some outside agency discovering doping cases, as in the case with David Millar mentioned above, when it was the Paris police drugs squad.

"I think most major sports are making efforts to stamp out drugs," says Mr Morgan. "They can no longer ignore the issue.

"The big money in sport comes from broadcasting, and there is a danger they could pull out because of a perception that a sport has a drug problem.

"Any sport that is heavily reliant on TV money has to think about that and the potential financial outcome."

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