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Adventures in data journalism: ParaSports News’s doping sanction list

By Con-struct (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons By Con-struct (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This article is part of a ParaSport News series of articles looking at doping in the Paralympic, Deaflympic and disability sports movement.

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For two weeks, ParaSport News combed the internet for every reference to positive doping tests in the whole history of disability sport and finished with a list of 370 suspected cases of doping featuring athletes from 38 sports in 52 different countries dating back to 1986.  This was no easy task because there is no available list of this information readily available.

How did we do this?  First, we started off by visiting the website of the International Paralympic Committee and every major international sports federation that may have disability variants.  These sites were checked for lists of doping sanctions, frequency of doping tests and policies related to disability sports.   In a number of cases, sanctions list did not specify if a sanctioned sportsperson had a disability or not and these were then checked to confirm they did not. After that, every single national doping agency was checked to see if they had a website.  If they did, attempts were made to find lists of sanctions or frequency of doping controls and if these were separated out by disability variants or not.  Next, the Dutch government website on doping found at doping.nl was searched and searched some more in multiple languages to identify any and all references to doping in disability sport.  Once this was done, using various keywords and Google translate, academic papers, news sources and blogs were checked to see if additional references to not yet identified sanctions could be found.   After this was done, international and national deaf sport, blind cricket and cricket websites were checked for any more unidentified sanctions.

Each time a sanction was found, it was listed with sport, nationality, gender, name, if the person was sanctioned, day, month and year sanction imposed, day, month and year sanctioned ended, length of sanction, the doping offense or rule violation, the context of the doping control, doping fines, and which organization was in charge of doping control.  The source of this information was also collected.  Often, this information was cross tabulated as in most cases, the doping offense data was not complete and partial data sets might be available from multiple sources.  Notes were also taken when reading these sources to assist in developing a full picture of the context of doping in the disability sports movement.

After the list was developed, the doping offenses list was then manually crosschecked with WADA’s prohibited substances list to identify them by class of drug or rule violation.  This was done using the 2015 rule book, so while WADA may not have been around in 1986, anabolic steroids were still classed as S1 violations.

Some of this gets really confusing because sources do not always agree, especially prior to 2008, as to how many people were tested, how many people were caught doping, and which sports they participated in.  There are also a lot of Paralympians/Deaflympians caught doping stories without any data regarding what sport they participated in.  Every attempt was made to normalize this and not count anyone twice.

The list that has been developed as a result of this is the biggest public list of doping sanctions in disability sport.  We think the list, coupled with the process of developing the list, provides some really fascinating insights into doping in the Paralympic and Deaflympic movements.  If you have any questions or comments about this series, please contact us by leaving a comment or via email.

The data collected by ParaSport News for this report is available here for the benefit of other journalists and the sports community.

Laura Hale
About Laura Hale (2533 Articles)
Laura Hale is a sport journalist, specializing in Paralympic and disability sport news. Prior to helping found ParaSport-News, she spent two and a half years working as a journalist on Wikinews, a citizen journalism site. As a journalist, she has covered the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina, the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, and a number of other sporting events. She has additional experience with Paralympic sport having worked as a Wikipedian in Residence for the Australian and Spanish Paralympic Committees.

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