The election of a new president of the World Anti-Doping Agency should give it the strength to stop countries stealing Olympic medals, the U.S. anti-doping chief said on Wednesday in remarks aimed at Russian state-sponsored doping.
- WADA is set to elect Polish sports and tourism minister Witold Banka on Thursday to succeed president Craig Reedie on Jan. 1.
- Speaking at WADA’s World Conference on Doping in Sport, Travis Tygart, a strong critic of WADA’s handling of a Russian doping scandal, said the Tokyo 2020 Games would be the fifth Olympics where doping was the main issue instead of athletes’ performances.
- “We can do more and we must do more,” Tygart, the head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), told the conference. “We cannot allow one country to steal medals.”
- “We must have a strong and independent WADA and not a weak service provider some have enjoyed in the last few years,” he said.
- Russia’s anti-doping agency RUSADA was suspended after a 2015 WADA report that found vast evidence of state-sponsored doping in Russian athletics. The country has since struggled to restore its international credibility in sport.
- In September WADA again opened compliance proceedings after finding “inconsistencies” in the vast bank of historical testing data finally handed over in January.
- In separate comments to TASS news agency that were not related to Tygart’s remarks, Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov said that athletes should be punished for anti-doping violations, no matter where they are from.
Formed with good intentions, WADA finds itself at a crossroads as it celebrates its 20th anniversary at a conference this week in Poland. It’s an agency riven with conflicts of interest that have hindered its fight against drugs and exacerbated its 4-year-old struggle to hold Russia accountable for a massive doping scandal.
- Because the IOC provides half of WADA’s annual $34.6 million budget, its members hold six of the 12 seats on its executive board. Representatives from the Olympic movement also hold half of the spots on the 38-person foundation board, which rubber stamps the legislation.
- WADA’s president for the past six years, Craig Reedie, is an IOC member, soon to be replaced by Witold Banka, who also serves at Poland’s minister of sports.
Both connections — to the IOC and to governments — are conflicts of interest.
- “You can’t be the leading regulator and tell everyone else to be independent when you’re not,” said Rob Koehler, a former WADA executive who know leads Global Athlete, which seeks a louder voice for athletes in the Olympic world.
A “groundbreaking” method of using gene testing to catch doping cheats could be ready in time for the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.
- Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee president, said the technology would allow blood doping to be identified several months after banned performance-enhancing drugs such as EPO had been used by an athlete. As things stand some substances can be undetectable by testers after only a few hours.
- “If approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency, such gene testing could be used at the Tokyo Olympics. These new methods will again strengthen deterrence. We want the cheats to never feel safe, anytime or anywhere.”
A more long-ranging test for blood doping could be validated and put into use in time for the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.
- According to the Guardian, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach announced the news at the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Katowice, Poland on Tuesday. With research on genetic sequencing progressing well, this new approach could be a groundbreaking method to detect blood doping, weeks or even months after it took place," Bach told the conference.
- The new test looks at changes to the expression of a number of different genes in the body that are specifically changed by the use of blood-boosting drugs or transfusions. A number of researchers have been working on 'omics'-type tests for doping, including Yannis Pitsiladis, a member of the IOC medical and scientific commission.
- Operation Aderlass earlier this year showed cycling that blood doping is still happening at the highest level even with the biological passport, with Austrians Georg Preidler and Stefan Denifl, Slovenians Kristijan Koren and Borut Bozic, Croatian Kristijan Durasek and former racer Alessandro Petacchi all banned following the investigation.
- A study by Danish researchers found that re-injecting just 135 millilitres of one's own blood could yield a five per cent performance increase.
- The UCI said it was considering employing the International Testing Agency for anti-doping efforts, while its independent agency - the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation - said such a move could reduce the amount of anti-doping resources available to cycling.
Having retired before his pro career had really begun, and with no skin in the game anymore, Kenneth Mercken is unfailingly honest with his insight. “I think it’s a bit better as the time when the film is situated was a really crazy time and there’s a lot more products that can be traced nowadays,” Mercken says, before admitting: “I think it’s still really bad.
- Kenneth Mercken was on his way to becoming a pro rider, and was prepared to do and take anything to help him achieve that goal.
- This year he’s released an autobiographical film about his career.
- The central conflict of ‘The Racer’ isn’t between the young Belgian rider and the performance enhancing drugs, at the turn of the millenium that was par for the course.
- Mercken’s story is a familiar one, of lines incrementally being crossed until a dose of EPO is no bigger of a deal than your morning coffee.
- While the Belgian’s decision to start doping was gradual, getting out of that world was a decisive moment.
“I went to see the doctor and she told me that I had to use a growth hormone because of my delayed puberty. And I was like ‘yeah let’s do it’. Everybody else was doing it. Why not me? And then she said ‘hold on, you’re gonna have to do it your whole career every day.’
- Mercken does, however, see hope for the future due to the fact that young riders are now able to compete in some of the biggest races, potentially hinting at the likes of Remco Evenepoel, who won the Clásica San Sebastián this year at the age of just 19.
“I’m still hopeful because I think nowadays you see young kids that are 19 years old that can win big races with the pros again, that was impossible in my day.
A film by Kenneth Mercken. This equally intoxicating and critical take on professional cycling makes the competitive, destructive lives of the pro cyclists almost physically tangible.
A superb new drama about cycling, drugs and pressure, out on Monday, has as good a crack as anything at asking why sportspeople do what they do.
- The who, the how and the what of sport are covered with passion and forensic detail as never before; the why of sport remains a more elusive beast, and the question of what motivates people to push themselves beyond their limit lurks at the edge of the frame of so much of what we watch.
- Coureur is the debut feature film from Kenneth Mercken, himself a former Belgian amateur national champion who was faced with a pair of stark choices during his attempts to turn professional in Italy. Firstly: would he take the drugs that were being offered to him? This was an easy one: yes, he would, because he wanted to be a competitive proposition. But the second question was harder: was he prepared to bear the high risk of cancer that his unique medical history put him at if he stayed on the drugs? Ultimately, he was not: he quit cycling and went to film school; this movie is a drama based on his experiences.