Doping is a very serious issue bedevilling the sporting arena. It has consequences for athletes' careers, perception of sports in the society and funding of sports events and sporting organisations. There is a widespread perception that doping unfairly improves results of athletes.
A statistical study of information on best lifetime results of top 100 m sprinters (males better than 9.98 s, females 11.00 s), over the period of 1980-2011 was conducted. Athletes were divided into categories of 'doped' (N = 17 males and 14 females), based on self admission, the confirmed detection of known doping agents in their bodies or doping conviction, and 'non-doped' (N = 46 males and 55 females).
No significant differences (unpaired t-test) between dopers and non-dopers were found in their average results: male 'dopers' 9.89 s identical with 'non-dopers' 9.89 s, females 10.84 s and 10.88 s respectively. Slopes of regressions of best results on dates for both 'dopers' and 'non dopers' were not significantly different from zero. This indicates that no general improvement as a group in 100 m sprint results over a quarter of a century occurred irrespective of doping being or not being used.
Since there are no statistical differences between athletes found "doping" and the others, one of the following must be true: (1) "doping" as used by athletes so detected does not improve results, or (2) "doping" is widespread and only sometimes detected. Since there was no improvement in overall results during the last quarter of the century, the first conclusion is more likely. Objectively, various "doping" agents have obvious physiological or anatomical effects. These may not translate into better results due to the clandestine use of doping that prevents its scientific structuring. Perception of the effectiveness of doping should be reconsidered. Policy changes may be required to ensure the continued fairness and equity in testing, legislation and sports in general.