What can be done to revive the fight against doping and dopers in sport?

By Jack Anderson published on 15 August 2013

Part 1 of this blog reviewed the current state of play in sports doping in the context of the twenty fifth anniversary of a sporting summer overshadowed by doping scandals. The following brief series of notes asks what, in a legal and administrative sense, can now be done to revive the fight against doping and dopers in sport, beginning with the idea of accrediting national anti-doping agencies.

Accrediting National Anti-Doping Agencies

Although WADA is the recognised as the global advocacy and harmonisation agency for anti-doping policy, the implementation and enforcement of that policy is carried out largely by either Olympic or IOC-recognised international federations or national anti-doping agencies (NADAs). Some NADAs are, politely, more “enthusiastic” than others.

The patchy implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code is not, to use the cliché, promoting a level-playing field. Figures from WADA’s 2012 Anti-Doping Testing Reportclearly show that some nationalities are being more regularly and rigorously tested than others e.g., the Jamaican Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) carried out a total of 106 drug tests in the period in question. All of the JADCO testing was by way of urine testing; there were no reported blood tests. By contrast, Norway with a population less than twice the size of Jamaica carried out 2,205 tests, 36 of which were blood samples.

The lack of enthusiasm by some NADAs is related to what the Pound Report (to WADA on Lack of Effectiveness of Testing Programmes)2 referred to as a lack of will by, or incentive for, government agencies to pursue and punish local athletes, who bring fame and recognition to the country, and including, according to the Pound Report, direct interference by governments in NADA activities. For many NADAs, the Pound Report noted that their “sole concern” was “showing minimal [World Anti-Doping] Code compliance”.

There are three points of note here.

First, effective NADAs are hugely important in the fight against doping in sport and not just simply as organisations that facilitate the carrying out of testing.

An effective NADA is also a source and resource for sports doping intelligence and analysis of effective anti-doping programmes and how in particular athletes evade testing by way of insider knowledge of testing schedules; micro-doping techniques; manipulating or tampering samples etc.

As seen also in the supplements saga in Australian sport (particularly as it affected rugby league and Australian Rule) an effective NADA, backed by adequate statutory funding and powers, and acting in conjunction with competent statutory bodies (e.g., the Australian Crime Commission) can quickly and thoroughly investigate doping-related matters.3

That being said, and secondly, some context must be given as to this lack of enthusiasm on the part of certain NADAs. For many NADAs, their lack of enthusiasm is also, bluntly, related to the lack of resources to instigate the necessary intelligence gathering, blood and out-of-competition testing.

Staying with the Jamaica/Norway contrast as an example, critics of Jamaica’s approach to doping in sport must acknowledge that sport’s integrity problems must be seen in relative terms.  Jamaica is not a rich country. In the latest Human Development Index Report from the UN (based on various criteria of education, health and income provision) Norway ranks first in the world; Jamaica is 85th of 186 countries.4 The argument that money should be diverted from school, hospital, and social welfare budgets to sports doping must not be an easy one to make in Jamaica.

Similarly, the definition of and motivation specifically to combat sports corruption must again be seen in relative terms.  That relativity can be found in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2012 (covering issues such as access to information, bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, and the enforcement of anti-corruption laws) where Jamaica ranks nearly 80 places lower than Norway.5 If sports corruption is merely incidental to general societal corruption then it must be understandable that its investigation will also remain incidental.

This brings us on to the third point – what can be done? WADA could ask its key stakeholders for more resources to be directed at and to subsidize the work of NADAs. However, and the analogy here is to the  debate on granting international aid to some developing countries, where the existing NADA operating structure is weak, such resources are likely to be wasted .

 

Recommendation

WADA needs to implement a minimum governance competency policy for NADAs. As the Pound Reports notes, WADA has such minimum competency standards for laboratory accreditation. A similar accreditation process should be put in place for NADAs and including requirements vis a vis governance, operating standards; Code compliance benchmarks and regular, independent quality assessment audits.

 


 

[1] WADA’s 2012 Anti-Doping Testing Report is available atwww.wadaama.org/Documents/Resources/TestingFigures/WADA-2012-Anti-Doping-Testing-Figures-Report-EN.pdf (last accessed 7 August 2013).

[2] Working Group Report to WADA Executive Committee on Lack of Effectiveness of Testing Programs (“The Pound Report”) is available at

http://www.wada-ama.org/Documents/World_Anti-Doping_Program/Reports-Assessments/2013-05-12-Lack-of-effectiveness-of-testing-WG-Report-Final.pdf

[3] At the time of writing (13 August 2013), the Australian Anti-Doping Authority’s investigation was beginning to result in sprots specific charges against AFL players, seehttp://www.smh.com.au/afl/afl-news/essendon-hird-charged-with-bringing-game-into-disrepute-20130813-2rtye.html

[4] The UN Human Development Index Report 2013 is available at http://hdr.undp.org/en/(last accessed 12 August 2013).

[5] Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index is available athttp://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/ (last accessed 12 August 2013).

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