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The president of the World Anti Doping Agency, Craig Reedie, has called on more governments to criminalize doping, saying that acting in this way will play a vital part in helping prevent the current problems escalating and spilling over into everyday society.
“Sport is now a hugely lucrative industry, and there is a real area of concern with drugs being counterfeited, illegally produced, trafficked and distributed – and ultimately these drugs get in the hands of elite athletes and, increasingly, members of the public,” he said in a WADA statement, requesting an escalation of preventative measures.
“If governments can introduce relevant laws, and applicable penalties to combat this abuse of substances, then police will act and the scourge of doping can be prevented.”
Reedie and WADA Director General David Howman were part of the Second International Conference on the Pharmaceutical Industry and the Fight against Doping, which was held last week.
It was co-hosted by WADA, as well as by others including UNESCO, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Sports, Science & Technology, and the Japan Anti-Doping Agency (JADA).
Speaking in the wake of that conference, Reedie is clear on the magnitude of the issue. “These substances are no longer just of use to elite athletes, but to high school students who want to increase their strength or the older generations who long for the ‘fountain of youth,” he explained.
“These types of substances are not approved and they have not gone through the required health checks. Put simply, we do not always know from where these dubious substances originate. The internet means that these substances are increasingly easy to access, and that in itself is a concern.
“However, the danger that these substances pose to public health has, in the partnerships the anti-doping community and pharmaceutical industry are now forming, a real answer in place.”
While some countries such as France, Spain and Italy have already criminalised the abuse of doping products, many others have not. Reedie sees measures to tackle those who administer or traffic banned substances as being an important step, recognising that making this area punishable by law is a far bigger deterrent than having limited sporting sanctions alone. WADA is not seeking to criminalise doping athletes themselves, but rather those who facilitate their drug use.
Reedie also outlined the importance of the current cooperation between WADA and other anti-doping bodies plus large drug companies. In the past this has helped the UCI and others to detect new products like the blood booster CERA; during the 2008 Tour de France, Riccardo Ricco, Stefan Schumacher and others were nabbed for its use after they utilised what they had believed was an undetectable substance.
Reedie says this kind of collaboration is essential, and references the former partnerships already in place with companies such as Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Roche and Amgen, as well as federations such as the IFPMA [International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations]. He would like to see an escalation of these kind of arrangements, with more companies becoming involved.
Were that to happen, it would mean that the tests used on cyclists and other athletes would become more advanced and have a greater likelihood of picking up those who used banned substances or methods.
A third area of action he identifies as being important is the exchange of information between various organisations, ensuring that details gathered in one country can be of use to another.
“Both communities must press ahead with sharing information across borders,” he reasoned. “Evidence is rife that athletes will go to unthinkable lengths to find shortcuts to success, and it’s now up to proponents of clean sport – be they anti-doping organizations, governments, public health organizations or even law enforcement agencies – to share information that stops prohibited substances from getting in the wrong hands.
“This is something the new anti-doping rules – the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code – highlights the need for.”