8 March 2017

Tackling Doping in Sport: removal of conflicts of interest is central

The removal of conflicts of interest is central to the future of anti-doping, heard delegates attending day one of the Tackling Doping in Sport conference at Wembley today. Speakers from the upper echelons of the world’s anti-doping organisations (ADOs) also warned against taking an “anglocentric” and condescending approach to anti-doping, as different countries take a different approach to anti-doping issues, including therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs).

Adam Pengilly, a member of the Athlete’s Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), criticised the “completely ridiculous” situation where there is no sanctioning regime in place for ADOs under the World Anti-Doping Code, yet athletes face a four-year ban as a starting point. Olivier Niggli, Director General of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said that “work is ongoing” in developing a system of graded sanctioning for ADOs that are not compliant with the Code, as outlined at WADA’s Foundation Board meeting in November.

Bill Bock, General Counsel to the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), was critical of the IOC for not banning Russia from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games following the systemic doping outlined in Part One of the Independent Person Report produced for WADA by Richard McLaren. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) was praised for taking the ‘courageous’ decision to ban the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) from international competition based on evidence in Part One of the WADA IP Report.

However, it was highlighted that the IPC could face a Mexican standoff over its decision to ban the RPC, if no evidence is forthcoming on the 35 Russian Paralympians implicated as benefitting from the ‘disappearing positive’ methodology outlined in Part One of the WADA IP Report. The IPC took the decision based on the RPC’s alleged failure to protect clean athletes, as well as its failure to comply with IPC anti-doping rules and the World Anti-Doping Code. It could therefore potentially face difficulties if it cannot link that decision to actual anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) committed by athletes. The situation is pressing – the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics take place in March 2018.

Joseph de Pencier, CEO of iNADO (which represents national anti-doping organisations) pointed out that there is “still a wealth of information in Russia” about the alleged systemic doping which investigators have not been able to access. For example, a report prepared by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Task Force found that Russian authorities are still refusing to release athlete biological passport (ABP) samples that have been screened at the Moscow laboratory. De Pencier said that if access to such information is not granted by the Russian authorities, there could be a “battle of wills” over whether the IPC’s suspension of the RPC can remain in place.

“It was the institutional system that really let down the athletes”, explained Sir Philip Craven, President of the IPC. “I would hope that if the proof is there – and we’ve been shown that there is proof there”.

Niggli said that a committee had been set up in January to examine the “unsatisfactory situation” regarding glucocorticoids on its Prohibited List. ‘All glucocorticoids are prohibited when administered by oral, intravenous, intramuscular, or rectal routes’ reads Section S9 of the List, however glucocorticoids are permitted in competition (IC) via other routes of administration, and out of competition (OOC).  “The hope was that the detection method for routes of administration would be developed”, said Niggli. “That hasn’t happened. Only those who are being honest about what they have been doing get caught. Otherwise you always say it was a cream, and you get away with it.”

Last week, CEO of UK Anti-Doping Nicole Sapstead told the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee of the UK Parliament that the amount of triamcinolone – a glucocorticoid – held in the Manchester velodrome was far more than required for three TUEs held by Bradley Wiggins. UKAD began an investigation on 23 September 2016 after receiving information that a package delivered to Wiggins on 12 June 2011 after the Critérium du Dauphiné contained triamcinolone, after Fancy Bears leaked documents purporting to indicate three TUEs held by Wiggins.

UKAD has previously asked for triamcinolone to be added to the Prohibited List. “If they choose not to take on board what we’re asking them to include or change as regards the Prohibited List for a fourth year, then I hope that WADA will give us a full account of why they have decided not to go down that path”, said Sapstead.

UKAD would also like sport to consider building a requirement into the agreement that is signed between elite athletes and their national governing body that would allow access to email and telephone records. “We need the power to make people do what we are asking them to do”, said Sapstead. “There would have to be some very strong controls around accessibility of that information. I’d like that information. When we get a list of thousands of phone numbers, we can cross-reference it with lists of athlete support personnel.”

Sapstead also confirmed that the organising committee for the London 2017 IAAF World Championships has chosen another firm to test athletes competing at the event. Professor David Cowan confirmed that his WADA-accredited laboratory at Kings College, London, will not be analysing any samples taken at London 2017. It is understood that the testing contract has been awarded to a German company, Professional Worldwide Controls, after it offered a lower price. Analysis of samples will be carried out at the WADA-accredited laboratory in Ghent, Belgium. “This is the problem when commercial interests are involved in anti-doping”, warned Cowan.

Mike Morgan of Morgan Sports Law also pointed out that as detection methods become more refined, ADOs may need to introduce threshold limits for prohibited substances that can show up in athlete samples due to environmental contamination. He said that testing methods have evolved to detect picograms (0.000,000,000,001g) of a substance in an athlete’s sample, and detailed cases where this has occurred involving clenbuterol (contaminated meat), hydrochlorothiazide (contaminated water) and cocaine (contamination through kissing).

ADOs were also warned to ‘future proof’ themselves against some of the failures that have taken place in sport over the last year. Sapstead pointed to the importance of keeping accurate medical records, after a lack of medical records at British Cycling and Team Sky left them unable to prove that the package delivered to Wiggins in 2011 contained fluimucil, as has been claimed by Dr. Richard Freeman.

De Pencier and Niggli also warned that the collapse of an anti-doping system, as has happened in Russia, could also occur in other countries. “If your NADO fails, then you take your entire sporting community with you”, said De Pencier.

• Andy Brown of the Sports Integrity Initiative will also attend tomorrow’s session at Tackling Doping in Sport, which is organised by World Sports Advocate and UK Anti-Doping. Click here to get in touch with Andy, or click here to view tomorrow’s programme.

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