March 29, 2018


WADA or World Anti-Doping Agency was formed in the year 1999 by the International Olympic Committee to make organisational efforts against doping, or the illegal and unethical use of drugs in sports. Since then, the organisation has come a long way in its endeavours to make sports a drugs-free zone, however, those who are doping have come a long way as well.

Artificial Intelligence to Assist Anti-Doping Efforts of WADA

The director general at WADA, Olivier Niggli, during an interview with iNews, stated that, “It is a lot harder to dope today than it was 19 years ago. The system is a lot more sophisticated. Obviously, on the other side, the cheaters have also gotten more sophisticated. That’s why we’ve now reached a stage where everybody has realised that we now have to make a real step up by investing more in the system.

This step-up mentioned by Niggli is supposed to involve Artificial Intelligence. He says, “We’re having discussions on artificial intelligence going forward. There’s a lot of promising things”. The idea here is to feed the essential data to AI so that it can process it a lot more effectively and efficiently than humans can. The conception for adding AI into the system comes from the tonnes of potential data that the organisation possesses right now.

Artificial Intelligence to Assist Anti-Doping Efforts of WADA

WADA, in its efforts to ensure that none of the athletes is on performance-enhancing drugs, collects bundles of data about them, including biological-passports and previous doping-test reports. This data, for the most part, remains unused due to the lack of proper resources. Once this data is fed to the ‘sophisticated algorithms’ of AI, the anomalies can be detected almost instantly. This conceptual algorithm would also be able to identify and then track the patterns, making the detection system even more effective.

A crucial point is that this AI-powered detection system will only raise the red flags for the suspicious athletes. The verdict will only be given after the succeeding tests. In other words, the technology will analyse the data only to better target the athletes with susceptibilities, and it is on these factors that suspicious athletes will be subjected to the appropriate drug-tests will be conducted.

This procedure will make the entire process more efficient, allowing WADA to take necessary actions as soon as possible. Understanding the many benefits of the proposed system, the agency has decided to run some pilot programmes in the coming weeks, as was stated in a recent report by iNews.

The subject was also discussed at a recent meeting hosted by FINCIS or Finnish Center for Integrity in Sports in Helsinki, Finland. In the meeting, eleven representatives from Finland’s National Anti-Doping Organization, two members of International Federations, and some representatives from Interpol reviewed the draft of Anti-Doping Intelligence and Investigations Network (ADIIN) management plan that will be presented to the WADA’s Executive Committee and Foundation Board in May.


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