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Reading: Neuro-doping, tDCS and Chess — are WADA’s Regulations under Threat?


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Neuro-doping, tDCS and Chess — are WADA’s Regulations under Threat?


Ryan Nathan Au

London School of Economics and Political Science , GB
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The recent emergence of cognitive-enhancing techniques including non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) has reignited discussions on the serious concerns regarding WADA’s (World Anti-Doping Agency) outdated anti-doping regulations. Hitherto, much has been written from the perspective of drugs/physical enhancements/physical sports, but little from the lens of NIBS/cognitive enhancement/mind-sports. Using the example of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a form of NIBS, in professional chess (being a mind-sport) as a case study, this article contends that WADA’s regulations are paradoxically both under and over-exclusive because the regulations were borne out of physical sport scandals in the 1980s. This article comprises three sections. The first identifies the four key problematic areas of WADA’s anti-doping regulations, including the failures of WADA’s two-thirds rule as well as the failure to distinguish between physical and mind sports, before engaging with the application of tDCS to Chess in order to illustrate existence of deep-rooted defects within WADA’s framework. Section Two argues that WADA’s deontological approach is unjust especially in the complex context of cognitive enhancement, before proceeding to deconstruct and undermine the validity of the very key underlying ethical principles that shape WADA’s policy. Finally, Section Three offers a vision of a de-centralized regime which gives priority to the health of the athlete, pays regard to actual enhancements and appreciates the nuances of individual sports. Such a regime may render a fair and equitable regulatory system a more attainable goal.
How to Cite: Au, R.N., 2022. Neuro-doping, tDCS and Chess — are WADA’s Regulations under Threat?. LSE Law Review, 8(1), pp.51–120.
Published on 28 Nov 2022.
Peer Reviewed


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