Tackling Doping in Sport 2011 - Review

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

“People are lost [from sport] once they realise that the contest they are watching is not a fair contest….maintaining the integrity of sport is vital” - Hugh Robertson MP (Minister for Sport and Olympics)

On Thursday 16th and Friday 17th March I joined an array of distinguished guests from the world of sport, science and law at World Sports Law Report’s annual Tackling Doping in Sport 2011 summit at Twickenham.

The purpose of the summit was to bring together key figures from around sport, involved in the fight against doping in sport, to share knowledge and ideas about how best to tackle the ever sophisticated problem of doping in sport in light of the review of the WADA Code in 2012.

It was made clear by Andy Parkinson from UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) that the problems facing sport are huge. With banned substances and means of delivery becoming more sophisticated and with the ever increasing infiltration of organised crime in sport he urged anti-doping agencies and law enforcement agencies to work together to sustain the momentum in the fight against cheats in sport. This sentiment was echoed by David Howman of the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA), Pat McQuaid of the UCI and Hugh Robertson MP (Minister for Sport and Olympics). It is worth noting that from the amount of money invested in sport only a tiny fraction is given to the fight to uphold the integrity of sport.

There were a number of presentations and panel discussions focused around the science behind doping and the detection methods used to seek out the cheats. The scientists (see the programme for more details) did well to explain the complex science behind gene doping, blood spinning, the biological passport and the risk to athletes using supplements. There could have been complaints that the presentations were overly technical or did not go into enough detail, but in the main they were well pitched, bearing in mind the degree of variation of expertise and abilities in the audience.

One of the highlights of the two days was the “Round Table Discussion” where delegates were asked to give their comments on a number of WADA Code provisions in light of the upcoming review of the Code in 2012. The discussion groups were intended to stimulate debate over a number of key areas in anti-doping and get to the bottom of what people really thought of some topical issues. Unfortunately I was called away from the session; however, after speaking to a number of the guests I was repeatedly informed that it was one of the best sessions of the two days. I hope this is a format that we start to see being used more frequently at conferences. Also, as I found out firsthand, there was an opportunity to witness a demonstration of the doping control procedure used to test athletes. This was useful in helping practitioners to under what the athlete and Doping Control Officers have to go through to ensure sport is as clean as is humanly possible.

The venue was good with adequate space to host 180 or so people in attendance. The information packs were clearly laid out with a detailed programme explaining the layout of the two days. There were plenty of breaks and a drinks session after the first day to give guests adequate amounts of time to network.

I can not help but feel I left with more questions than answers, but in effect this was what it was all about, to stimulate the mind on the issues surrounding Doping in Sport. The conference achieved this, as can be seen by the press coverage during and after the conference.

By Sean Cottrell, Editor, Lawinsport.com

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