9th March 2017

Tackling Doping in Sport: independence key to solving ‘fraud’ that is doping

Anti-doping needs to be independent from sport, which has a conflict of interest due to being in charge of both commercially promoting sport whilst also sanctioning its participants for doping, which could damage those commercial interests. That was the overriding message heard by delegates at Day Two of Tackling Doping in Sport, which took place in London today. To repeat a phrase used in Doping in Sport and the Law and by Travis Tygart of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in a recent US House of Representatives hearing, those policing anti-doping
need to stop the fox guarding the henhouse.

FoxHenhouseHowever, at a more local level, cultural change is needed. “Coach education in some countries is that in order to train at this level, you need this volume”, explained Tony Minichiello, coach to London 2012 heptathlon gold medalist Jessica Ennis-Hill. “To get this volume, you need pharmaceutical assistance”. Forty-four percent of 345 Nigerian athletes felt that somebody should use drugs to boost their performance in sports, and 56% said that they felt most sporting records were due to drug use. NigeriaStudyTDSMolobe Ikenna Daniel, Director of the Unified Initiative for a Drug Free Nigeria, described the findings (right) of his study as “very unfortunate”, highlighting that “education and information are key”.

Journalist Hajo Seppelt screened a documentary as an illustration that little in Russia has changed, as banned coaches such as Vladimir Kazarin were filmed coaching elite Russian athletes at the end of January this year. Interestingly, Minichiello had earlier described many athletics coaches are “lifers” that will remain in the sport. “My concern is that practices that occur are landmarks for the future”, he said. “If you do something bad and an athlete has problems in their 40s, then they could sue their governing body, and that can wreck the sport. Some of the people involved behave for now, not looking at the future.”

Seppelt also said that Russia’s continued appointment of officials implicated in the systemic doping outlined in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) two Independent Commission (IC) and Independent Person (IP) Reports illustrated that it was not committed to real change. He also cited the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) trumpeting the success of the Rio 2016 anti-doping programme whilst WADA’s Independent Observer Report revealed something rather different as another example of the fox guarding the henhouse. “The IOC has for decades been the gravedigger of anti-doping”, he said.

Delegates also heard that the Prohibited List is set to get even more complex. Dr. Audrey Kinahan said that alcohol is scheduled to be removed from the Prohibited List for 2018 and that a “discussion is emerging” about whether to remove section S7, Narcotics, from the List entirely. In terms of new medical substances, she said that section S2 of the List (Peptide hormones, growth factors, related substances and mimetics) is set to be the biggest growth area.

Dr. Kinahan also said that there is a growing movement for a “unique List”, where all substances that feature on the List are prohibited at all times. This would solve the problem regarding glucocorticoids, which WADA has set up a working group to examine following suggestions that more triamcinolone than necessary for therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) held by cyclists may have been ordered by British Cycling and Team Sky. However Dr. Kinahan said that it would also create problems regarding recreational drugs, which are largely used out of competition and not to enhance sporting performance.

Whilst a unique List would reduce the potential for athletes to misunderstand the rules about what is prohibited and when, Dr. Kinahan denied that the List is becoming too complex for athletes to understand. “Medicine is complex”, she argued. “I don’t think that it’s too complex”.

It also appears that problems still exist with the management and application of global rules dictating how ADOs should operate. WADA removed Kenya from its list of non-compliant national anti-doping agencies (NADOs) in August, however it has also suspended the Bloemfontein (South Africa) and Tunisian laboratories. Dr. Moni Wekesa of Daystar University in Nairobi explained that this means as there is no WADA-accredited laboratory in Africa, Anti-Doping Kenya (ADAK) is facing sending its samples out of the continent.

Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Football League (NFL), neither of which are World Anti-Doping Code signatories, were able to state in great detail how many tests they were performing. Asked how much they spent on anti-doping, the MLB said the sum was “significant”, whilst the NFL said it was “substantial”. Perhaps an independent anti-doping agency, applicable to all sports, would be able to solve some of these outlying issues.

• A review of Day One of Tackling Doping in Sport, organised by World Sports Advocate and UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), is available here

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