Artificial Intelligence Takes on Doping

Artificial intelligence (AI) may become the best weapon against AI-enhancing drugs, with word that the World Anti-Doping Agency is planning to use AI pattern-recognition technology to detect signs of violations among athletes.

WADA will use AI algorithms to search the repositories of data gathered by global anti-doping bodies, according to a report from iNews. The algorithms would be able to sort through and analyze this information nearly instantaneously. The analysis employs pattern-recognition techniques that would help organizations to better target monitoring efforts, identifying suspicious athletes and ensuring they have been subjected to testing.

WADA intends to call for pilot AI projects during the next few weeks.

“We’re having discussions on artificial intelligence going forward. There’s a lot of promising things,” said Olivier Niggli, WADA’s director general.

WADA’s embrace of AI is designed to take advantage of the massive databases already collected by agencies around the world.

“There’s a lot of data that is being collected in anti-doping – whether it is through the [athlete biological] passports, through the tests, through the results of the athletes,” Niggli said. “If you manage to create a system that will meaningfully use this data I think you can create some very powerful tools.”

The use of pattern-recognition technology also could help WADA compensate for its limited money and manpower resources. By employing AI to flag athletes, WADA could better target their testing efforts and make more efficient use of its limited resources. AI also could provide a higher level of sophistication in identifying doping incidents.

“Only sophisticated algorithms would be able to spot the differences, which would allow the anti-doping organizations to focus on the right individuals,” Niggly added. “Anti-doping organizations would potentially get a lot of intelligence by being able to analyze a lot of this data and immediately spotting anomalies which are signs of maybe doping. I hope that in five years we will be much better at analyzing all this data that we already have and are already collected. It’s a complex world, which requires complex answers.”

Established in 1999, WADA is an international independent agency that focuses on scientific research, education and development of anti-doping capacities. The organization was founded by a group led by the International Olympic Committee.

The organization has taken an aggressive stand against doping in Olympic sports. In 2015, WADA suspended the Russian Anti-Doping Agency in response to news of widespread, systemic doping among Russian athletes, leading to bans from multiple sporting events.

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