Wada calls for wider effort to tackle sports doping

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) called for wider efforts to tackle the use of banned substances in sport, warning that lack of funding was hampering its fight against increasingly sophisticated cheating.

"With $25-30 million (20-24 million Euros of funding) a year, WADA's budget is less than some European footballers earn," the organisation's director-general David Howman told a conference in Paris.

"The (Lance) Armstrong affair especially has shown that we're dealing with a more and more highly developed process, a real conspiracy, with unwarranted pressures on teams," he added, referring to the shamed US cyclist.

"WADA isn't in a position to tackle this type of sophisticated cheating."

Armstrong saga highlighted issues

Howman and others said that in the wake of the Armstrong scandal, which saw the Texan stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from the sport for life, anti-doping agencies had to work more closely with the pharmaceutical industry.

The president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, added: "The fight against doping is too big for a single organisation to tackle on its own."

One way that the industry had helped so far was by making available to WADA samples of certain medications not yet available to the wider public to help develop tests more quickly and effectively when they are adapted for illegal use in sport.

Image shattered, but made great progress

Philip Thomson, a senior vice-president at global pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline, said the company was working on three new medicines and had provided samples from one to WADA to be tested.

Rogge, however, said that sport also needed to enlist the support of law enforcement agencies to fight against doping, given that it frequently had links to "other forms of corruption".

Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, assistant secretary-general of the Council of Europe, added: "The economic stakes are high and therefore give rise to corruption through illegal betting and match-fixing.

"There is complicity in everything criminal around sport and that impacts on doping and performance," she told delegates, adding that the council started work three weeks ago on a new convention against match-fixing.

French sports minister Valerie Fourneyron said doping was also a public health issue, with amateur athletes as well as elite sportsmen and women involved.

"We've got to make the deviant use of pharmaceutical products harder for athletes and their entourages. To do that we've got to form an alliance with more people for the fight," added WADA president John Fahey.

At a separate conference in the Qatari capital, Doha, the chief medical officer of the International Cycling Union (UCI), Mario Zorzoli, said the sport, whose image had been shattered by the Armstrong case, had made great progress to catch dope cheats.

The UCI was heavily criticised for not catching Armstrong, amid claims of a cover-up of positive tests, but Zorzoli said he was optimistic for the future.

"We have new testing procedures that are far more advanced than the testing procedures we had even five years ago. There are things like the biological passport that monitor athletes over a long period of time," he said.

"Essentially we are moving from the toxicology approach that existed in the seventies to now a more forensic science approach."

Cycling was also using police intelligence as proof of doping and sharing technical information with pharmaceutical companies to develop tests before drugs are commercialised, he added.

(Sapa, November 2012)

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