Cookson wants assurances if WADA takes over cycling’s testing

by Shane Stokes


A proposal by the IOC that WADA could take over testing for all sports is still some way from being made definite, but UCI president Brian Cookson has expressed possible reservations.

In recent years the UCI has ramped up the amount of money spent fighting doping, receiving money from teams and others and using it to fund testing in and out of competition and also the biological passport. The sum involved is, by Cookson’s reckoning, well over six million euro, and dwarfs the equivalent budget of many larger sports.

The proposal that WADA could take over testing was floated by the IOC just over a month ago. IOC President Thomas Bach commented further on it last Friday, and also recommended that the Court of Arbitration for Sport would take over the allocation of doping sanctions.

“We are convinced that the adoption of these proposals would lead to a more efficient, more transparent, more streamlined, more cost efficient, more harmonized anti-doping system,” Bach said, according to AP. “It would better protect the clean athletes and enhance the credibility of sports.”

Speaking recently to CyclingTips, Cookson explained why he would have potential reservations.

“What I would want to be assured about in any new system is that it is at least as good as what we have now got,” he said.

“And if we are asked to put resources into it – and we currently put about seven and a half million Swiss francs a year into anti-doping, including the CADF, legal costs and so on – then we get at least that return back into our sport.

“I don’t want to put money from cycling into some anti-doping international body that then puts less money and does a less good job in our sport.”

Cookson’s concern is, therefore, that any amalgamated new system covering all sports may prove to be less efficient at catching cheats.

Bach stated on Friday that he wanted WADA to consider three aspects. The first would be the new testing and results management unit proposed last month by the IOC. Under this system, the sports federations involved would make funding available, and governments would support it “both logistically and financially.”

Secondly, he said that the body should include what he termed a “professional intelligence-gathering unit,” which would also ensure compliance by national anti-doping bodies and WADA-accredited drug-testing labs.

Thirdly, CAS would impose doping bans and other sanctions. A different CAS panel would handle appeals against said sanctions.

CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb told AP that he considered the proposal to be essential to ensure “a more harmonious application of the anti-doping rules everywhere in the world. This would constitute the most significant evolution for CAS in the last ten years.”

He added that it was only a proposal at this point in time, and that many steps would be necessary before such a system would be ready.

That’s hard to dispute; CAS appeals have been known to have very considerable delays. For example, an appeal by Johan Bruyneel against his lifetime ban was due to be held last March 2, yet over eight months later there is still no sign of a verdict.

Unless a massive increase in its structure and manpower was carried out, it is hard not to imagine the system grinding to a halt under the strain of the proposed new system.

There may also be concerns by athletes and others at one wing of CAS handling appeals about the sentence handed down by another.
Of course, some will argue that such a system would be more independent than the current sporting structure in place. The IAAF and other bodies have been accused of not taking doping seriously and, according to top anti-doping scientists Robin Parisotto and Michael Ashenden, did not properly investigate athletes with suspicious blood values.

When Cookson became UCI president he acted to make the governing body’s Cycling Anti Doping Foundation (CADF) more independent.

“We genuinely have made the anti-doping stuff separate from my office,” he told CyclingTips. “We have the Cycling Anti Doping Foundation on the other side of the building. Maybe it would be nicer if we can move them somewhere else, but organisationally, cost-wise, they are over there.

“They don’t consult with me and I don’t consult with them about who does or doesn’t get tested or whatever. They don’t tell me what the situation is. We then have a legal anti-doping service which is a separate part of the UCI’s staff. It is supervised by an independent external lawyer.

“So I don’t know about the outcome of any…I don’t even know when there have been a positive test until it goes through due process. And I know about it maybe a couple of hours before you guys [journalists] get told about it, and that is only really so I don’t get wrong-footed in any discussion.”

He argued that the greater independence called for by the IOC is already in place in cycling. “They and others have asked WADA to extend their remit to not only handle the overall stuff, but the testing and case management and so on.

“But we have kind of done that ourselves.”

It remains to be seen if the new system called for by the IOC does indeed replace the CADF or, alternatively, if WADA and the IOC will be satisfied to allow the body to continue its current role.

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