Onderzoek Tilburg Law School

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Rights of athletes insufficiently protected

PRESS RELEASE 31 October 2017 - The rights of athletes are insufficiently protected. This is evidenced by a large international study conducted by researchers of Tilburg University in the Netherlands. Athletes have to submit to blood and urine collection programs. In addition, privacy sensitive data are being collected in the fight against doping. However, the legal protection of the rights of athletes is inadequate in many European countries.

Three researchers at the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT) of Tilburg University have conducted a study commissioned by the European Commission on the collection of personal data in the context of the fight against doping in sport. The researchers collaborated with experts from all Member States of the European Union and have held interviews with anti-doping organizations, athletes, Data Protection Authorities, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which sets the global anti-doping rules.

After more than a year of research, the researchers have now delivered their report. The report indicates that countries within the European Union need to take a number of steps to ensure compliance with the right to data protection and other fundamental rights. 

Bart van der Sloot, who coordinated the project, stresses that countries should be critical especially on three points:

  • The need for many of the doping tests is now insufficiently substantiated, while this is a legal requirement.
  • Collecting personal information about athletes often does not comply with the rules contained in the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union.
  • The legal position of the athlete is very weak, which may lead to an interference with the right to a fair trial as laid down in the European Convention on Human Rights.

The report provides 30 recommendations for countries to ensure that doping controls are conducted within the applicable legal framework.

Note for editors

  • The report 'Anti-doping & data protection' was written by Bart van der Sloot (senior researcher), Mara Paun (junior researcher) and Ronald Leenes (professor) from TILT and Peter McNally and Patricia Ypma from Spark Legal. It can be downloaded at https://publications.europa.eu.      
  • For more information please contact Bart van der Sloot at b.vdrsloot@tilburguniversity.edu / tel. +31 13 466 8489.