Olympic leaders agree on independent drug-testing system
LONDON — In a shake-up of the drug-testing system in sports, Olympic leaders agreed Saturday that testing should be independent of sports organizations and urged the World Anti-Doping Agency to take over the responsibility on a global level.
In a separate decision, the IOC said competitions run by international federations or national Olympic bodies must allow entry to athletes from all member countries and give them equal treatment, or else the event will not be given Olympic qualifying status. The move addresses the issue of Israeli athletes being denied entry to some countries.
Doping topped the agenda of the “Olympic Summit” convened in Lausanne, Switzerland, by IOC President Thomas Bach. The meeting was attended by members of the IOC’s rule-making executive board, and leaders of international federations and national Olympic committees.
The group “decided to make anti-doping testing independent from sports organizations,” the IOC said in a statement. “The summit requested WADA to study taking responsibility for testing as the global center of competence in anti-doping.”
The study will be carried out by a WADA working group that includes Olympic leaders and government representatives. No time frame was given.
The move is aimed at giving more credibility to drug-testing by taking it out of the hands of sports bodies and event organizers and turning it over to an independent body.
Federations have been viewed as partial in drug-testing and less willing to uncover cheating in their own sport. Critics say the current system has an inherent conflict of interest.
Putting the testing in independent hands would introduce more legitimacy to the system, the Olympic leaders believe.
Sebastian Coe, the recently elected president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, has called for an independent body to handle drug-testing in track and field. He was among those who attended Saturday’s summit.
WADA, which was set up in 1999 to oversee anti-doping efforts around the world, does not carry out its own testing. It accredits labs around the world, which analyze samples.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Montreal-based body — headed by IOC vice president Craig Reedie of Britain — would be willing to expand its role by taking over independent testing across the board.
Such a move would require a major change in funding. Money that federations and other bodies spend on testing would have to be transferred to WADA or any other independent body set up for the testing.
Under the proposal, while the testing itself would be handled independently, the disciplinary procedures and sanctioning would be done by the federations.
It also wasn’t clear how the new system would affect the testing program at the Olympic Games. Traditionally, the testing is run by the IOC and the local organizing committee.
On another issue, the IOC dealt with the discrimination toward athletes from certain countries, without mentioning Israel by name.
“The summit agreed that for all competitions taking place under the auspices of an IF or NOC or their continental or regional associations, it has to be ensured that all athletes from all their members can enter a country to compete and are treated equally,” the statement said.
In August, an Israeli badminton player was denied a visa to compete in the world championships in Indonesia until the last minute and after intervention by the international federation.
Last year, the IOC issued a warning to the world baseball and softball confederation after an Israeli delegate was barred from displaying his national flag at a meeting in Tunisia.
The IOC is also concerned that athletes from Kosovo — which the IOC formally recognized in December 2014 — could face difficulties in some countries.
Saturday’s summit also urged sports bodies to comply with standards of good governance, reviewed the progress in setting up a digital Olympic Channel and hailed the bidding process that brought in five candidate cities — Budapest, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Paris and Rome — for the 2024 Games.
Among those attending the meeting were Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti who heads the global association of national Olympic bodies; acting FIFA President Issa Hayatou; and the heads of the US, Russian and Chinese Olympic committees.