David Owen

If anyone is planning to knuckle down this weekend with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s new 66-page report on anti-doping rule violations, then be aware of one thing: you’ll get much more out of it if you have a pocket calculator with a reliable percentage function to hand.

That said, the document sheds a good deal of light on this still shadowy, much misinterpreted area of modern elite sport and raises all sorts of fascinating questions, some of which I will aim to highlight here.

I propose to focus on two sets of data in particular: the adverse analytical findings (AAFs) by sport table that begins on page 6; and a similar listing of AAFs by National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) starting on page 16.

The full report, which covers anti-doping rule violations committed in 2013, may be accessed here: wada-2013-adrv-report-en.pdf

What particularly interested me in both tables – and explains why I needed that percentage function – were the AAF-to-sample rates for different sports and different NADOs.

I have used the data in the first table simply to draw up a listing of the 10 current Olympic sports with the highest rates of AAFs to samples taken. I hope you will agree that it makes interesting reading:


Total Samples

Total AAFs

Percentage AAFs















































Table tennis




The highest Winter Olympic sport in this ranking, incidentally, was ice-hockey with 0.92 per cent.

One should be careful, as ever with doping infractions, about the conclusions that one draws: this may, in part, give an indication of whose anti-doping apparatus is most/least effective.

Neither athletics nor cycling rank in the top five sports for highest adverse analytical findings to samples taken
Neither athletics nor cycling rank in the top five sports for highest adverse analytical findings to samples taken ©Getty Images

Nonetheless, I found it interesting that when the proportion of AAFs to samples, as opposed to merely the total of AAFs, is the key criterion, neither athletics nor cycling makes the top five.

The figures also suggest to me that a higher volume of tests would be desirable in taekwondo and table tennis, as well as equestrian disciplines.

Turning to the analysis by NADO, this just seemed to me to raise a whole series of intriguing questions, some of which, no doubt, can be explained by the novelty of the exercise.

Here are my main observations:

1. The spread of results, measured once again by AAF-to-sample rates, was just immense.

On the one hand, you had the likes of Tunisia and El Salvador, who collected a minuscule number of samples – ten between them – but whose targeting is clearly fearsomely effective, since seven of them - 70 per cent - yielded AAFs.

At the opposite extreme, the NADOs of some very important sporting nations had AAF rates so low that I would be keen to subject the anti-doping machinery there to independent scrutiny.

I am thinking of Cuba, which had an AAF rate of 0.13 per cent, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach’s home nation of Germany (0.16 per cent), 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic host Japan (0.18 per cent) and China, whose 13,364 samples – the second-highest national total – produced only 33 AAFs, equivalent to a rate of 0.25 per cent.

To put this in context, the average rate of AAFs from the more than 130,000 samples collected by NADOs was 1.17 per cent. (WADA noted that only organisations recording at least one AAF were included.)

Several major sporting nations had very low adverse analytical findings rates including IOC President's home nation Germany
Several major sporting nations had very low adverse analytical findings rates including, IOC President Thomas Bach's home nation Germany ©AFP/Getty Images

2.  The figures may be of some help to Russia as it struggles to convince the world it is serious about fighting doping. For one thing, the Russian NADO, RUSADA, took more samples than any other national counterpart.

For another, its AAF rate was above the global average at 1.36 per cent.

Moreover, 92.5 per cent of these AAFs led to anti-doping rule violations, a much higher proportion than in many other countries; the equivalent figure for the United States NADO, USADA, for example, was just 42 per cent.

Turkey’s elevated AAF-to-sample rate of 9.5 per cent is not unexpected given the country’s well-publicised doping problems in 2013; more surprising is that, even discounting the likes of Tunisia and El Salvador on grounds that they took so few samples, it is not the highest.

Mexico’s NADO, CONADE, recorded AAFs for 10.4 per cent of its 701 samples.

What is more, 49 of these cases are listed in the report as still pending, giving Mexico fully 43 per cent of the global total for this category. (All 11 AAFs attributed to the Thai NADO are similarly still listed as pending.)

The NADO from Kuwait, home country of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, meanwhile, recorded AAFs for 17 of its 161 samples, giving it an AAF-to-sample rate of 10.56 per cent.

Russia's National Anti-Doping Organisation took more samples than any other national counterpart
Russia's National Anti-Doping Organisation took more samples than any other national counterpart ©Getty Images

While the AAF rate for the United States NADO, USADA, was unremarkable enough at 0.9 per cent, more of these cases – 23 – than in any other country did not result in a violation because of therapeutic use exemptions.

In all, therapeutic use exemptions applied to 8.4 per cent of AAFs recorded by NADOs around the world; in the case of USADA, the equivalent figure was 36 per cent.

Sweden was another country where therapeutic use exemptions seemed much in evidence. Indeed, of 72 AAFs recorded by the Swedish NADO, only 15 led to an anti-doping rule violation – a remarkably low proportion.

Other NADOs with high AAF-to-sample rates include Flanders (3.03 per cent), Chile (3.51 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (4.83 per cent).

The Jamaican NADO, JADCO, took only 294 samples, but recorded six AAFs for an AAF-to-sample rate of 2.04 per cent.

No result for Kenya was listed.

One other surprising detail: the NADO for the not inconsiderable, though troubled, sporting nation of Ukraine, home country of pole-vault great Sergey Bubka, is listed as taking only nine samples.