In Mike Miller's opinion, the next generation of Olympic drug testing is about to arrive, and right now the race is on to see whether sports officials or the dopers will get out in front of the pack and take control.
In order to vanquish banned substances from future Olympic Games, his idea is to have microchips implanted in the athletes to constantly monitor for the presence of drugs. That's controversial, to say the least. Moreover, adopting this technology first, he says, would stop drug cheats from using it themselves in a different way to evade drug testing by examiners.
Miller, the CEO of the World Olympians Association, told a gathering of anti-doping officials in London that this approach would help them get ahead of the drug cheats – and stay there. And, apparently, while Miller's proposal made clear that the athletes' personal privacy wasn't a top concern for him, he oddly justified the idea by adding that since Britons, in general, have no qualms about embedding a chip in their canine pets, they should be open to doing the same to athletes.
“Well, we’re a nation of dog lovers, we’re prepared to chip our dogs and it doesn’t seem to harm them," Miller said Tuesday, as reported by the British press, "so why aren’t we prepared to chip ourselves?”
Miller added, that, "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."
That's certainly a unique perspective offered by the chief executive of the WOA, an organization founded and sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee which represents 100,000 living, former Olympians around the world.
Miller, at the WOA helm for four years and seen in the adjacent photo, said this view did not represent its members, so it was his belief and his alone.
"I'm just throwing the idea out there," he said, the Daily Mail reported. "I'm gauging reaction from people but we do need to think of new ways to protect clean sport." Miller envisions that if dopers seized chip technology before officials do, they could monitor precisely when their adulterated blood returned to normal, to beat the testing procedure.
Miller, in general, doesn't appear to be a loose cannon. And in the past, he has championed noble causes on behalf of WOA, like fighting the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone in a sensible and thoughtful way.
But in this case, Miller is coming at this problem without even the backing of his members – who, by the way, are retired, and wouldn't even be subjected to the plan. (Nor does he have the support of today's Olympians.) He also doesn't present any knowledge of whether implanting chips in humans is even safe, both in the short run and over time. There's no scientific support for this, and on that count alone, the proposal is basically unethical.
And if that's not enough, then there's the significant question of whether the chip would even function as intended. Given that the 2018 Prohibited List issued by World Anti-Doping Agency, the top policing body, contains hundreds of banned substances, how can we be sure that these microchips could accurately monitor the presence of any of these substances in urine or the bloodstream?
Reacting to Miller's comments in London was Nicole Sapstead, the United Kingdom's Anti-Doping chief executive. She had her doubts about the science, as well as the notion of invading an athlete's personal sphere.
"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?," Sapstead said in a statement. "There is a balance to be struck between a right to privacy versus demonstrating that you are clean."
Many current Olympians already feel their privacy is invaded, having to make themselves available for surprise urine testing. Given today's already-onerous circumstances, it's hard to believe they'd welcome Miller's proposal on any level. And on a scientific level, the support is nowhere to be seen.