Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Education & targeted testing key to future of anti-doping

Education and targeted testing will be key in the future fight against doping in sport, heard 230 delegates from over 25 countries on the first day of Tackling Doping in Sport, which is taking place at Wembley on 19-20 March. However, the introduction of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code on 1 January will create challenges for sport, athletes and anti-doping organisations, as all try to adjust to the new provisions within the Code. 

One of the most popular sessions during the first day was the round table discussion on education. It came to light that the anti-doping community still has an issue with supplement use, in that athletes who had checked the label of supplement products are still reporting positive tests. Jeff Benz, an Arbitrator at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), reported that out of 2,631 tests conducted at the Sochi Winter Olympics, seven positives had been reported and all had involved supplements.

Graeme Dell, Deputy Chef de Mission (Operations) for Commonwealth Games England, said that athlete support staff needed to “stop telling the athletes to take supplements”, as it has already been identified that there are too many risks associated with it. Another suggested solution was to shift liability onto supplement producers, by making them accountable for the substances in their products. It was suggested that this would not cause problems with regards to athletes claiming contamination, as batches of supplements could be tested to ascertain if they contained the same substance.

David Howman, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Director General, warned delegates that WADA has been asked by sport to measure the quality of testing, rather than the quantity of testing, in the future. He highlighted that the 2015 Code and new International Standards put the emphasis on anti-doping organisations to ensure that they carry out investigations into alleged doping, rather than relying purely on testing. Concern was raised that many smaller ADOs are not equipped for this, however WADA is looking into establishing training programmes for ADOs.

In terms of compliance, Howman highlighted that WADA had posted a set of model rules on its internet site. It expects every anti-doping organisation to have submitted its rules to a special department set up by WADA to deal with the new rules by this time next year.

Another hot topic was the creation of ‘sport-specific menus’ for testing under the 2015 Code. The theory behind this is to avoid unnecessary expense by not requiring sports to test for substances that would be of no use to an athlete in that sport – for example, human growth hormone in snooker. Howman said that a consultation with all sports would take place this year, with a report due in September. However, there was a warning that this could actually make things more expensive for laboratories, which may be required to develop special tests for different sports.

Another issue is laboratory funding. Peter Van Eenoo, Director of the WADA-accredited laboratory DoCoLab, explained how anti-doping laboratories are running out of money. “WADA and others have been saying that tests can be done for US$100”, said Eenoo. “A test at €150 is a low cost estimation. Some labs are charging €100 per test, but they are subsidised. WADA claims that labs are making huge profits when in fact they are making losses. People think that we are paid by WADA, when we in fact pay WADA to carry out proficiency tests. If the labs are losing money, then anti-doping research and innovation will stop.”

Van Eenoo highlighted that in 2011, labs produced 3,310 research papers; in 2012 this had risen to 3,740; but in 2013 this had dropped to 2,320. He said that a requirement to spend 7% of budgets on research would further test laboratories.

Stacey Shevill, a solicitor with UK Anti-Doping, highlighted how focus had shifted from analytical cases to non-analytical. She said that in 2010, 95% of cases were analytical, whereas in 2013, 60% were. She also highlighted how the 2015 Code’s change in focus means that anti-doping organisations can focus on intelligence-led investigations, citing UKAD’s prosecution of Dean Colclough for possession and trafficking of prohibited substances as an example of this approach.

Renée Anne Shirley, former Executive Director of the Jamaican Anti-Doping Commission, highlighted her experience as a whistleblower, reminding all of their responsibilities in protecting those that come forward to speak out against the anti-doping system. You can read some of her views in this pre-event interview.

Jeff Benz, a CAS Arbitrator, gave his eagerly anticipated round up of the major anti-doping case law over the past year. However, he highlighted an important issue with the CAS, in that all the decisions are not published, meaning that anti-doping practitioners are often not armed with all of the information they need to argue their cases.

Day two of the conference kicks off tomorrow at 9am. Highly anticipated sessions include an opening address from Travis Tygart, Chief Executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency; a debate on what the new Code means for athletes; a session on the future of cycling and on the Operacion Puerto investigation. For a full programme, click here.


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