1967: Creation of the IOC Medical Commission

The origins of the IOC Medical Commission lie in the early days of sports doping in the 1960s.

In 1960 a Danish cyclist, Knut Enemark Jensen, died during the team time trial. Drugs were implicated, although that was never proven.

Then in 1967 British cyclist Tommy Simpson died during the Tour de France on the upper slopes of Mont Ventoux. Simpson was found to have been doped significantly, and the furore over his death made the IOC realise it had to do something to confront the spectre of doping.

The Medical Commission is the oldest permanent IOC Commission, having been officially formed in 1967, although it actually started as a working group in 1962, after Avery Brundage revealed in a letter that he thought the IOC should pay more attention to doping. At the 66th IOC Session in Tehran, Iran, in 1967, the working group formally became the IOC Medical Commission. The Commission was originally tasked with setting up a medical testing service for the Olympic Games 1968 and studying the issue of anti-doping controls.

In the 1970s, most of the work of the IOC Medical Commission was devoted to doping and finding ways to test athletes and prevent their use of performance-enhancing drugs. The 1976 version of the Olympic Charter noted that the Medical Commission had the ability to recommend medal withdrawal in certain cases – “A medal may be withdrawn by order of the Executive Board on a proposal of the Medical Commission.”

Shortly after the 1980 Games, the IOC Medical Commission was re-organised and three sub-commissions were formed. These sub-commissions were focused on 1) doping and the biochemistry of sport; 2) the biomechanics and physiology of sport; and 3) sports medicine and orthopaedics. After the 1984 Games, the Medical Commission added a fourth sub-commission – coordination with NOCs.

Since its inception in 1962, the IOC Medical Commission has greatly expanded, and during the term of IOC President Thomas Bach, its name was changed to the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission. While initially the IOC described the function of the Medical Commission to be the fight against doping, after the formation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in November 1999, specific work on doping and doping penalties was ceded to WADA by the Medical Commission. The Medical and Scientific Commission now notes that its mission is to provide a guiding reference for all other sports organisations on matters relating to the protection of the health of athletes.

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Evolution of the IOC

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