Friends, as we survey the doping/anti-doping landscape on the way to Rio, several things stand out. In my opinion:
- Doping is widespread in our sport and others.
- Corruption in some parts of the world in anti-doping is rampant, proven and on-going. (No deterrent effect seen so far.)
- The nations of Russia, China and Brazil all have very high numbers of doped athletes caught by various testing agencies over the past 6 years. Much higher than any other nations.
- There are western “trusted” anti-doping agencies. The USA/Great Britain/Australia among others. These are working together cooperatively.
- “FINA” says the athletes in the top-10 list in each Olympic event will be tested “7 to 10” times in the lead up to Rio. The caution is that that is TRUE only among the already trusted nations, where 6-7 nations in #4 above have agreed to do so. So the “trusted” anti-doping countries will be MAXI-TESTED and the Russia/China/Brazil cheats will NOT be tested any more (or at all). Hardly fair dinkum as our Aussie friends would say. This is an unfair system. The most doped nations get a free pass.
Now, there are “points of light.”
- In Track and Field, the Great Britain anti-doping organization is testing Russian T&F athletes at the request of the IAAF. This means at least SOME are getting real tests. There is a precedent here.
- The International Olympic Committee says the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will “henceforth” be responsible for all doping penalties from here forward. OK. Good. Takes penalties out of the hands of FINA/IAAF, etc., who are charged with promoting the sport, an obvious conflict of interest. BUT, is this ONLY for the tests done at the Olympic Games or ????? Is it intended as a larger and permanent measure? It needs to be for all sports, all the time.
- Suggestion has been made (but money not yet identified to do it) that WADA “take over” all testing. Also potentially good.
And “points of very dark.”
The results of the WADA reports and German TV documentaries make it clear that anti-doping can be thwarted at numerous points in the process. Those points are:
- Selection of an “inappropriate panel of tests” to be done on a particular athlete in a particular sport. If Swimming athletes are tested for drugs that affect SHOOTING, its unlikely we will catch anyone. (And reports say that this happens.) So appropriate CONTROL of who is tested for what, must be done by experts and incorruptible.
- Collection procedures must be precise and correct. No advance warning (not even 20 minutes), meticulous control of the samples, etc. Advance warning seems to be a “popular” way to avoid positives. Masking agents are fast and effective.
- Testing. The lab work itself must be impartial, athlete unknown, and uninfluenced by political operatives. (As clearly happened in Russia.) The lab work must be impeccable. Some labs are great; others, very corrupt. And WADA “appears” to be on top of this… but it begs the question of how a lab is “approved” by WADA and then five years later is completely corrupt. Clearly a weakness here.
- Reporting and penalties. FINA, in particular, appears to have a deeply flawed process of notification, with no penalties, etc. for violations of reporting requirements. If reports are not done in a timely and exact process, there can be no confidence in the system. See the SUN YANG case, among multiple others.
The solutions must be of both POLITICAL AND WILL POWER TO CATCH THE CHEATS. I have proposed the following to Mr. Travis Tygart of USADA: WADA needs a rule that if any nation has “X” number of positives in any sport over the past 6 years, it triggers the process below:
- The flawed nation MUST have its athletes tested by the agency of the one the “trusted” labs from another nation. (Lab completely approved by WADA. The Russian T&F team being tested by GB as an example.)
- The flawed nation must pay for the tests done and all expenses to do so, by the trusted anti-doping agency. This is expensive and the penalty you pay for your own internally-flawed and highly-doped national ethic.
- ALL of the points A-D above must be completed by the trusted agency, NOT any by the flawed national program. Especially important in point A: the simplest way to cheat is to have a test for the “wrong things.”
- CAS gets all results and issues all sanctions in all sports.
All human systems have flaws. Our goal should be to make it as “independent” an anti-doping program as humanely possible. At the end of the day, “we have to trust someone.”