PtG Article 20.09.2005

Organised crime involved in trafficking of drugs for doping

The involvement of organised crime in illegal trafficking of doping is a growing problem. Yet governments and international institutions have done very little to combat the problem or get the pharmaceutical companies to stop the conscious over production of drugs with doping potential.

Sandro Donati, head of research with the Italian Olympic Committee, has been an ardent anti-doping fighter for 20 years, and at Play the Game 2005, he will present a world-scale picture of trafficking with illegal doping substances and attempt to answer to what extent criminal organisations are involved in the trafficking.


Sandro Donati has been fighting against doping for more than 20 years. Read the incredible story of his personal involvement in Anti-doping: The fraud Behind the Stage.

See also the presentation he made at Play the Game 2002 on the international doping trade.

"I can already say that many drug seizures and investigations indicate that criminal organisations and some Mafia-like groups in several countries are in full control of these traffics", Sandro Donati said at the official opening of Play the Game's office at the Danish School of Journalism.

Sandro Donati is currently part of a taskforce set up by the National Anti-Mafia Directorate in Italy and Libera - a civil society anti-mafia group. The taskforce has studied police reports from drug seizures and transcripts from criminal proceedings and found out that criminal organisations are involved in the trafficking of doping substances in several regions of Italy.

The bulk of doping seized in Italy are anabolic steroids, but there are also significant amounts of growth hormone and erythropoietin. 19 per cent of all seizures also contained hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin...

The amount of doping substances seized by the Italian police only represents 0.5 per cent of the total amount sold in Italy. The taskforce estimates that over half a million Italians use doping in one form or another and the market continues to grow. The drugs are sold in local sports centres, and professional athletes only make up a small proportion of all doping users.

A golden opportunity lost

At Play the Game 2005, Sandro Donati will also present a review of the measures taken by governments and national and international institutions to combat doping problems and the involvement of organised crime in distributing the drugs.

It is unlikely that the review will be encouraging. According to Sandro Donati, the world lost a golden opportunity to address the problem back in 1993. That year 19 countries attended a conference hosted by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) who was concerned about the increasing levels of illicit trafficking of anabolic steroids.

"However, in the following 12 years, none of the international and US institutions who had attended the Conference did in fact favour the creation of an international police and judicial body that would be capable of dealing with this issue," says Sandro Donati.

"Interpol has not conducted operations to repress illicit international traffics either, and the DEA itself did examine the problem with more attention than others but insufficiently as we can easily deduce from the discontinuous and fragmentary references to doping in their annual reports," says Sandro Donati.

He also points out that the World Health Organization never has interfered with the pharmaceutical companies to regulate the conscious overproduction of drugs with doping potential which is the basis for large parts of the illicit traffic.