Reform is needed if anti-doping authorities are to effectively tackle doping, said anti-doping experts at Tackling Doping in Sport on 24 February, organised by World Sports Law Report and hosted by sports lawyers Hammonds LLP. “Athletes are receiving six month bans for doping offences because sporting federations are afraid that Article 45 [of the IOC Charter] could be challenged”, said Travis Tygart, Chief Executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency. “We’ve got to get mad and return the playing field to clean athletes. We should be aggressive, but also be fair.”
Article 45 of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Charter prevents athletes convicted of a doping offence from participating in the next edition of the Olympic Games. Antonio Rigozzi, a Partner with Lévy Kaufmann-Kohler, highlighted that legal challenges to the Article are “inevitable, and will most likely be successful”.
“The Hardy case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport [CAS] will be an important test”, continued Tygart, referring to the 12 March hearing of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) appeal for an extension of American swimmer Jessica Hardy’s one-year ban for testing positive for a banned anabolic agent. WADA is seeking that Hardy should be banned for two years and declared ineligible for the London 2012 Olympics.
Reform of the WADA’s Athletes Commission was also seen as essential. “It exists purely to provide soundbites to the Executive Board of WADA”, said Ian Smith, Legal Director of the Professional Cricketers’ Association. “It has no power and it is useless – it is not elected”. UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) said that efforts were being made to reform athlete commissions at a national level first.
Andy Parkinson, Chief Executive of UKAD, said that more needed to be done to break down the “wall of silence” put up by the clean athlete community when questioned about who is using drugs. “Sophisticated networks are out there geared towards cheating in sport”, said Parkinson, who has been talking to Crimestoppers about how they deal with anonymous tip-offs. “Our focus is now on intelligence. Since 14 December, 75% of doping charges have been as a result of indirect intelligence.” However, he warned about the dangers of laying down anti-doping legislation – an option currently being considered by the UK government. “There needs to be a significant discussion about the impact. I would suggest that we perhaps don’t need a legislative regime that would impact 60 million people without first considering those who will have to enforce it.”
Pat McQuaid, President of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), presented his view that the number of admissions to doping since 2007 represented a turnaround for elite cycling’s “deeply entrenched culture of cheating”.
Mike Earl, Doping Control Programme Manager for the Football Association (FA), highlighted the difficulties that differences between out-of-competition testing and in-competition testing could create, in a talk about social drugs. Currently, WADA’s prohibited list prevents the taking of cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine in competition, but does not prevent it out of competition. “Surely it is better to say ‘you just can’t take this stuff’?”, he said.
Delegates said that they were impressed with the high concentration of key decision makers at the event, which included seven international sporting federations (such as the IRB, ITF, FEI…), 12 national sporting associations (FA, RFU, BOA, BHA…) and governmental organisations such as the Irish Sports Council, Malta Sports Council and more.