Pound: Drug-testing failing due to lack of will
LONDON— Dick Pound has written a report for the World Anti-Doping Agency assessing the current state of drug-testing. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture.
Despite increased testing and scientific advances to detect more sophisticated substances, Pound said anti-doping programs are failing and drug cheats are getting away scot-free because of a lack of will among sports organizations, governments and athletes.
In his report to WADA and in an interview with The Associated Press, Pound blamed the failings on “human and political factors” and called out sports federations, the IOC and WADA itself for not doing enough to catch serial dopers like Lance Armstrong.
The whole system, he said, is undermined by bickering among different groups, political interference, conflicts of interest and lack of incentives for nabbing drug offenders.
“There are clearly many systemic, organizational and human reasons why the drug-testing programs have been generally unsuccessful in detecting dopers/cheats,” Pound wrote in the report submitted to the WADA executive committee and foundation board in Montreal last weekend.
“There is no general appetite to undertake the effort and expense of a successful effort to deliver doping-free sport,” the report adds.
Pound chaired a five-person working group which produced the 26-page report entitled “Lack of Effectiveness of Testing Programs.” It carries weight considering that Pound served as WADA’s first chairman from 1999-2008. The Canadian is also a senior member of the International Olympic Committee.
“It ought to be a wakeup call,” Pound told the AP. “It ought to be a call to arms. We’ll see what kind of response we get from the stakeholders. It will be on their heads if they don’t respond properly.”
The report, which includes numerous recommendations, is being sent to all the client groups and will be up for consideration at WADA’s meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in September — two months before the world doping conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Pound singled out the Armstrong case as a prime example of how the system isn’t working. The American cyclist escaped detection for years before finally admitting that he doped while winning the Tour de France seven times.
“Armstrong is tested north of 300 times while taking all this stuff and never tested positive,” Pound said by telephone from Montreal. “How is that possible?”
The report points out that the number of doping controls carried out around the world has increased significantly over the years and testing methods have improved — yet, that has not resulted in more cheats being caught.
The report cites statistics showing that, of 250,000 drug tests per year, less than 1 percent produce positive findings for serious doping substances. That’s despite intelligence suggesting the rate of cheating is much higher.
“If you’re conservative and believe that 10 percent are doping, four out of every five athletes who are doping are not getting picked up by these tests,” Pound said in the interview. “Why is that?”
“The elephant in the room is the human factor, not the science, not the system,” he said. “The fact is, there is no concerted will on the part of virtually all the stakeholders to do what is necessary.”
Pound complained that athletes don’t speak out against doping, national and international federations are weak on the issue, national agencies are under the influence of governments, and governments have no incentive to catch their own nationals.
“The whole system is perpetuated that way,” he said.
According to the report, anti-doping organizations focus too much on the quantity of tests, rather than the quality and effectiveness. It said sports bodies, including the IOC, “take public, but false, comfort” from the large number of tests, which are predictable.
“It’s like the IOC suddenly announcing it’s going to do 5,000 tests before London,” Pound said. “So nobody’s under any particular element of surprise and you can miss two tests simply by not answering the door if you’re on something.”
The report also cites a “lack of inclination on the part of WADA to name and shame” sports federations which don’t comply with anti-doping rules; a lack of widespread testing for EPO, insulin and growth hormone; opposition to testing programs by players’ unions; different rules for team and individual sports; and doping control officers being threatened and bribed.
Disputes over WADA’s role are also hindering the ant-doping effort, with the agency “viewed as an irritant, surrounded by stakeholders, some of which are self-interested or conflicted organizations,” the report said.
“The international federations still think WADA is a service organization for their benefit,” Pound said. “It was never intended to be that at all. The international federations think it’s WADA’s responsibility to do their work, except they don’t want WADA to do the work.”
Governments, which provide 50 percent of WADA’s funding, have shown waning interest, with many sending civil servants instead of ministers to the meetings, the report said.
The report said WADA must be the “designated leader, coordinator and monitor” of the anti-doping movement. To do that, it should reduce its research and education programs and focus on testing and compliance.
WADA’s main thrust should be monitoring compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code, which came into force in 2004 and sets out rules for all athletes, sports and countries, the report said.
“We’ve got compliance standards that are completely meaningless,” Pound said. “They don’t measure effectiveness. They only measure quantity.”
The report said WADA should be able to impose interim sanctions on a sport which is found to be non-compliant with the code. If the sport remains non-compliant, “appropriate action” should be taken. Under IOC rules, compliance with the code is mandatory for sports in the Olympics.
Pound said the IOC should live up to the rules and kick out any sport which falls short.
“If you’re not compliant, then there should be consequences,” he said. “Every time somebody gets close and you say, ‘Maybe we should take road (cycling) racing off the program for a while,’ out comes the IOC wringing their hands and saying, ‘Oh dear, we can’t punish innocent athletes for the failure of a few.’
“You need some tough love here. You need some peer pressure.”
The report recommends mandatory use of the biological passport program, which monitors an athlete’s blood profile over time to look for signs of cheating. Track and field, swimming and cycling are among sports using the system.
Other recommendations include: encouraging “whistle-blowing” so athletes and others can come forward with information without fearing harsh punishments; ensuring that doping samples can be removed from a country without interference or tampering; EPO tests should be included in all testing programs; and pre-emptive target testing should be allowed in team sports.
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