WADA chief urges drug tainted sports to clean up
BEIJING (AP) -Weightlifting, cycling and other sports with a history of drug scandals need to clean up their acts to avoid any risk of losing their Olympic status, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency said Sunday.
WADA is monitoring Olympic sports to assess whether they are complying fully with the global code of drug-testing rules and sanctions, and will issue its findings and recommendations in November.
“Some sports such as weightlifting have a pretty bad record and that is demonstrated time and again with numerous athletes from that sport,” WADA president John Fahey said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“I think weightlifting understands, as cycling understands, that there is a huge risk for both those sports if the cheating is continued and continued to be exposed.”
The entire 11-member Bulgarian weightlifting team was barred from the Beijing Olympics after testing positive for steroids, and 11 of Greece’s 15 Olympic lifters also were excluded after failing pre-games controls. Several weightlifters were busted during the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. Cycling has been roiled by scandals in recent years at the Tour de France and other races.
“There is no sport that anybody can suggest is doping free,” Fahey said. “But there are some sports that have had a history, and I would suggest there’s a level or a culture (of doping) that has developed in some of those sports.”
Fahey said he has spoken about the problem with international weightlifting president Tamas Ajan, who is a member of WADA’s board. He praised the federation for increasing its out-of-competition testing to weed out cheaters ahead of the Olympics.
After its meeting in November, WADA will send its findings to the International Olympic Committee to decide on any sanctions. Sports which fail to comply with the WADA code can be excluded from the Olympics.
“Code compliance is essential for participation in any Olympics, summer or winter, so there is an incentive to get themselves up to speed,” Fahey said. “We will not hesitate, if there are a set of circumstances and facts and findings that lead to an outcome of noncompliance, to pass that on. It’s up to the IOC after that.”
WADA director general David Howman said sports that continue to be tainted by doping will come under pressure to be suspended or kicked out of the Olympics.
“The issue of how long will there be patience in the sporting world is a good one and should be addressed by the IOC once they’ve received our compliance report and they see the history of number of cases and so on,” he said. “I wouldn’t isolate weightlifting. There are probably several sports who might fall under the same microscope.”
“The other more clean sports will be saying, `You’re the ones that are actually sullying our reputation’.”
The WADA code was drafted eight years but was formally adopted by the sports federations four years ago on the eve of the Athens Olympics. However, not at all the federations have fully implemented the code, and now are under pressure to do so by November.
“We’re not going to hide the fact that some may not be compliant,” Fahey said, without identifying any specific sports. “We’ll continue to work after to bring up to speed any organization that is not compliant at the time.”
Fahey also said WADA will continue to try to convince North American professional sports leagues – including Major League Baseball, the NHL, the NBA and NFL – to adopt the Olympics anti-doping program, including regular out-of-competition testing. He praised the U.S. PGA Tour’s decision to begin testing in golf.
“The door has remained open and always will,” he said. “If the U.S. PGA can see the benefit, then there clearly must be something for the major professional sports in the United States.”
Fahey lamented that the spate of doping scandals that have rocked the sports world recently – snaring such high-profile names as Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin and Floyd Landis – has eroded the public’s confidence in top records and performances. Credibility will be on the line during the Beijing Olympics, where the IOC is conducting a record 4,500 drug tests.
“You can see … some cynicism and some credibility gap in the minds of the sporting public out there,” Fahey said. “The challenge that we all have is to restore that confidence to the sporting public.”
As he spoke, a stream of athletes from around the world packed into WADA’s small booth in the Olympic village to learn about the agency’s outreach program and to take an online doping quiz.
Passing through was Beckie Scott of Canada, a former gold medalist in cross-country skiing who sits on the IOC and WADA athletes’ commissions.
“We’re at a turning point,” she said. “These games are going to be a real signal to the sporting community on where we are and where we stand. I really believe the athletes have to be the catalyst for change and be the ones who say, `Enough is enough.”’
|Reaction of the International Weightlifting Federation President to WADA President John Fahey’s statements on the future Olympic Program following several inquiries from the media|
We are sorry that we did not have the pleasure of welcoming Mr. Fahey at the Olympic Weightlifting Venue, the BUAA Gymnasium, so he could not enjoy the wonderful atmosphere of exciting and highly successful competitions. We find it extremely regrettable that on the second day of the Beijing Olympic Games, amidst the wonderful atmosphere of friendship, understanding and sportsmanship of contests with the participation of 204 nations he found it necessary to attract international media and public attention by making statements negatively affecting our sport. The WADA President made statements specifically as to which sports he would propose to the IOC to expel from the Olympic Games program thus trying to influence the International Olympic Committee on subjects which are outside the scope of his competence as President of WADA.
While we respect Mr. Fahey’s former career as a politician of the Australian New South Wales State cabinet, it is unfortunate that since he took office as WADA President last November, at the 1st Olympic Games he is attending in an official capacity, he wishes to influence the Olympic Movement and the world of sport with hastened proposals.
It is worth pointing out that alone in 2008, between 1st January and 15th July, the IWF carried out more than 1,200 in and out-of-competition tests in 104 countries around the world. On this intensive and continuous anti-doping program the IWF spent over 650 Thousand Dollars, ultimately to ensure the participation of clean athletes in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
The Bulgarian and Greek cases Mr. Fahey is referring to were revealed in tests ordered and carried out by the IWF.
The IWF identifies itself with the IOC Presidents Zero Tolerance policy and expects WADA to continue being its fair and correct partner in the fight against doping.
Therefore, we reject such statements bringing our sport into disrepute. As regards the future Olympic Program, Mr. Fahey is hopefully aware of the fact that it comes under the competence of the IOC and its wise and experienced leaders.