The University of Adelaide study — titled "Anti-doping systems in sports are doomed to fail: a probability and cost analysis"— examining worldwide data of positive doping tests from 93 sports, found that single, random drug tests caught cheats only 2.9 per cent of the time. For a 100 per cent rate, all athletes would need to be tested up to 50 times a year.
"The current system of anti-doping testing is inadequate to eliminate doping," study co-author professor Maciej Henneberg said in a statement Friday. "It appears that anti-doping policies are in place more for perception, to show that the right thing is being done. In practice ... the anti-doping system is doomed to fail."
Henneberg said if athletes were tested 12 times a year, their odds of being caught was only 33 per cent, assuming they were continuously using a banned substance.
"But we know that athletes don't continuously use performance enhancing drugs, they have increasingly sophisticated techniques to avoid detection," Henneberg said.
Doping regimes vary between different sports and events. The Tour de France conducted 9,296 tests in 2012 for an average of nearly 10 tests for blood and urine on each of the 952 riders. The International Tennis Federation conducted 2,185 tests in 2012 on a total of 632 players, an average of 3.5 tests per player.