THERE is indubitably a doping crisis in sport. It is shouted from the rooftops. There is, however, an anti-doping crisis. This is whispered about in corners, mostly by academics.

Two of these educated questioners have written a book that seeks to address the chaos, unfairness and distinct lack of rationality in the system that seeks to catch cheats. They speak but they may not be heard, certainly by those who adhere to the outdated approach to testing.

The academic interrogators are Dr Paul Dimeo, of the University of Stirling, and Professor Verner Moller, of Aarhus University in Demark. Both are renowned experts in the field of doping and both share a dismay at present protocols.

In a debate painted in black and white, they wish to introduce shades of grey. Nuance is another victim in the world of performance-enhancing drugs, therapeutic-use exemptions and infringements on the human rights of athletes.

Dimeo’s immersion in the subject began after he had completed his PhD in racism in sport. “I then almost stumbled on this lack of knowledge of an interesting question: how did we come to have this anti-doping system?” he says.

He wrote a book on this subject in 2007 but his interest was further piqued when he visited Austin, Texas. The archives of the East German sporting association are housed in the university and the bike store of Lance Armstrong, the most famous drug cheat ever, is also in the city.

When Dimeo was not poring over the archives, he was listening to Armstrong’s attorneys who visited the campus to present their client’s case. He later met Professor Moller at a conference. Both came to a definitive conclusion.

“The system had failed,’’ says Dimeo. “There were also victims.” This category was not restricted to those who had been competing against cheats. There were also those who had been heavily penalised for minor infractions: the 60-year-old amateur hammer thrower who used testosterone after failing to receive an answer to his questions, the slew of athletes who failed A tests but passed B tests, only to find the time between the two had disqualified them from appearing in major championships.

There is also the universal category that encompasses every athlete. “The human rights issue of testing is a huge problem,” says Dimeo. Athletes must provide urine samples in full view of testers. Privacy is an obvious casualty,

Yet the anti-doping concerns go further, right to the heart of the methods and very existence of the World Anti-Doping Association. “I came to realise that WADA is quite unique,” says Dimeo. “It has one document that applies to all athletes in all countries in all sports, save those who have not signed up for it.”

He adds: “These 150 pages have so many implications.”

These include a massive if flawed, surveillance system, a testing system that is not fit for purpose and the effects on athletes.

“They have to be available 365 days a year and be prepared to expose their genitalia to provide samples. They have to keep up with more than 300 substances that may be present in medication or nutritional supplements.”

There is also the reality that testing is relatively infrequent and frequently ineffective. Athletes can escape to remote places where they are unlikely to be tested, others may slip off the radar by declaring themselves injured.

The authorities are also behind in terms of the pharmaceuticals. The chain goes something like this: drugs are developed for medical use, smart scientists realise they can improve athletic performance, drug agencies eventually realise this, further science provides a masking agent.

“There is the further complication that some drugs are considered all right, others can be used up to a threshold and others can be used under therapeutic-use exemptions,” he says.

WADA’s approach, he says, is based on pragmatism. It is also based on sands that keep shifting with the organisation resistant to any change. “Dissent is not accepted,” he says. “They are going around in circles because they have a framework that they will not change. WADA, too, has a monopoly of power. No organisation in public life has that power with no accountability.”

In their book, The Anti-Doping Crisis in Sport, Dimeo and Moller make a list of proposals that include a points-based grading system for guilty athletes, the possibility of a return to amateur sport, discarding therapeutic-use exemptions, and the introduction of a 24-hour chaperone for professional athletes.

Dimeo points out that these proposals are all part of an effort to open up discussion on the subject. He admits some will be scorned, most could be ignored. “The fascination about doping in sport is in the grey areas, in the dilemmas. Sports is considered socially valuable. We encourage young people to do it, there is government funding etc and I totally buy in to that.

“Athletes are then considered heroic figures but behind the scenes of all that there are very difficult decisions that have to be made. There is that balance between the obsession to win and its effect on health. There is the culture of dealing with administrators and coaches providing almost everything that is needed to win, yet holding back on drugs.”

The issue of painkillers, for example, also poses a problem. They are, by their very nature, performance-enhancing as some athletes could not compete at times without them yet they are tolerated by the authorities.

He admits, though: “It is a difficult sell to get people interested in the downside of anti-doping. The gamble of this book is that it may be a last hurrah. I have been investigating this and writing about this for a long time. My central message is that the system has to be changed and more respect shown to athletes. Athletes are now slowly questioning things but they face a backlash if they do it in the public domain. There is the immediate challenge of what have they got to hide?”

But can the anti-doping culture change when it is the hands of such a powerful, singular authority?

“I don’t see changes,” he says. “But I don’t get too depressed by that and I keep asking the questions.”