The Anti-Doping Data Base (ADAMS): Athletes’ Privacy in Jeopardy

Forbear to judge, for we are sinners all.—W.Shakespeare

To clarify for non-experts, ADAMS is the web-based database management system that coordinates anti-doping activities and stores a registered testing pool and its results. Certainly, it simplifies the whole process.

But it turns out the system is not working properly. Let’s look at a few issues of concern.

Uncontrolled access to athletes’ data 

With ADAMS in place, all parties involved receive lab results by email.

At first glance, such a mailing list includes random recipients. As one who’s familiar with WADA’s work, I doubt whether all these people really need to receive notifications.

Even more alarming is that this may suggest leaks of confidential data. Apparently, WADA is unable to control who else may get access to the sent information after the email is delivered.

Below is a message containing U.S. athletes’ doping test results. The recipients that are highlighted in yellow raise some doubts. As an expert, I can barely understand why athletes’ results should be delivered to all these people.


Recipients Errors

WADA’s work is at odds with public statements by WADA officials. Athlete privacy is under threat. And it has nothing to do with cyber-attacks or another type of meddling.

Besides, doping control is far from transparent. I would like to point at the first recipient LAD APMU that refers to the Athlete Passport Management Unit based at Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analyses in Lausanne. In 2012, Dr. Ashenden resigned from the APMU after the Unit had issued new contracts to its experts, with much tighter confidentiality clauses. To read more, see: Ashenden’s story is to demonstrate that anti-doping control is intentionally running behind closed doors.

Errors in completing the Doping Control Form at the 2016 Rio Games 

Here is a summary table created after the 2016 Olympics. ADAMS checking for errors showed that employees are negligent in completing the form. Some athletes do not have their results recorded with their numbers: samples do not match the numbers (6220764, 6221953 and 6220490). A few samples (numbers 303 251 and 161 644) are not even sent to the laboratory. Not to mention the fact that some athletes such as with the ID 6222637 have been wrongly attributed.


ADAMS errors checking

Simon system errors

USADA similar system has practically the same issues.

For example, comparing the information stored in the American management system to the data of the IAAF it has been revealed that 5176 of 12364 athletes have wrong samples number. On the part of the IAAF, no violations have been found, and thus, inaccuracies have been committed by the American part. The USADA was immediately notified of that (see the report below), but don’t expect them to fix it in a hurry.


The report on Simon checking

Certainly, errors or inaccuracies may occur when dealing with large amounts of data and completing forms by hand. You see, however, that half of the athletes have absolutely wrong information registered in the system. So, the software is not working properly. This is not appropriate because a wrong sample ID number could affect decision making, as a result of which many dishonest athletes would still escape punishment while clean athletes would be unsuccessfully trying to justify themselves. Taking into account the number of errors, there is no doubts the agency has done harm to many athletes for no good reason.

This is unacceptable for such organizations as WADA. Before they make decisions on athletes, they need to take care of their own system first. The WADA leadership has been repeatedly reported on systematic errors but no concrete action has been taken. Perhaps, they knowingly turn a blind eye to the errors of the system, updating of which requires a lot of money.

For me as for a former employee it seems reasonable that it would be better to appeal to a third party to check the test results database. Only a non-involved party is able to conduct an accurate accounting of athletes’ data, not dividing them into “us” and “them”.

As you can see, claiming to fight for athletes’ rights WADA just fails to fulfill its responsibilities.

Articles by: Inside Out

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