“We Microchip Dogs, So Why Not Athletes” – Olympics Suggest Implants To Prevent Doping
Companies in Scandinavia and the US have already embraced microchipping as a way to make the office experience more seamless by allowing employees to easily unlock doors or pay for food in the cafeteria.
Of course, while workers say they’ve welcomed the technology (one Russian hobbyist has reported self-implanted six microchips), and companies not to abuse the technology, the temptation to do so should make people nervous.
But the use of microchips in the workplace likely won’t be limited to corporate environments. Pretty soon, microchipping might become a common tool for monitoring professional and amateur athletes as sports leagues try to eradicate the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs.
At least that’s what recent remarks from Mike Miller, chief executive of the World Olympians Association, appeared to suggest. Speaking Tuesday to anti-doping leaders at a Westminster forum on integrity in sport, Miller said the Olympic Games should begin microchipping athletes to try and prevent the type of state-sponsored evasion of anti-doping rules purportedly organized by the Russian government ahead of the winter games in Sochi, the Guardian reported.
Because cheating is so widespread, Miller said such a radical approach is justified to help protect the integrity of the games. However, in what appears to be an ill-conceived attempt to preempt criticism, Miller clumsily compare human athletes to animals, saying that, since microchips are now being used to monitor pets, using them on humans wouldn’t be that much of a stretch.
“Some people say we shouldn’t do this to people,” Miller said. “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?”
The Olympics should act quickly to begin microchipping, Miller said, because a breakthrough in the technology is on the horizon that could allow microchips into a potent tool for cheaters. For example, the chips could be used to determine when levels of banned substances in an athletes blood have returned to “normal” levels.
What about the invasion of privacy inherent in using microchips? Well, Miller has an answer for that, too, noting that sports are “a club and people don’t have to join…if they don’t want to.”
“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.”
“Microchips get over the issue of whether the technology can be manipulated because they have no control over the device. The problem with the current anti-doping system is that all it says is that at a precise moment in time there are no banned substances but we need a system which says you are illegal substance-free at all times and if there are changes in markers they will be detected.”
To be sure, Miller said he was not speaking on behalf of the organization, and that his remarks about microchips reflect his views alone. He was merely throwing out an idea to try and guage the public’s reaction, he said.
“I’m just throwing the idea out there,” he said. “I’m gauging reaction from people but we do need to think of new ways to protect clean sport. I’m no Steve Jobs but we need to spend the money and use the latest technology.”
The WOA supports the 48 national Olympians associations and 100,000 living Olympians.
As the Guardian notes, the idea of microchips being inserted into athletes might not be so well-received by national teams and individual athletes. Some feel the current system of vigorous testing is already too invasive. According to current Olympic rules, athletes must declare on an online database where they will be every day for a one-hour window between 5 am to 11 pm to allow drug testers the opportunity to surprise them.
Nicole Sapstead, the UK’s anti-doping chief executive, said she’s wary of using microchips to monitor athletes, adding that the Olympics would never be able to guarantee that the technology is immune to tampering.
“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 organizations in their endeavors.”
Miller isn’t the first person to cite the increasing use of microchips to monitor pets as possible justification for using the technology on humans. Last year, a local NBC News report appeared to advocate implanting children with microchips. In one particularly galling passage, the report tried to guilt-trip parents by asking them: “How far would you go to keep your children secure?”
With that in mind, how far should the Olympics (not to mention professional sports leagues) go to stamp out the use of performance-enhancing drugs?
What do you think?