Anti-doping chief John Fahey has pledged to ‘catch the cheats behind the cheats’ by cracking down on doping violations by coaches, agents and physiotherapists.
As part of the new code by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), Fahey, its president, insists that athletes will no longer be solely responsible for failed dope tests but that the entourage behind sportsmen and women would be held accountable too. Those people had previously been untouchable by Wada.
The wider-reaching battle has become all the more relevant following the recent failed tests of Tyson Gay and five Jamaican athletes, including the former fastest man on the planet, Asafa Powell.
Powell blamed a personal trainer after testing positive for the banned stimulant oxilofrine while Gay said: “I basically put my trust in someone and was let down” after testing positive for a still unnamed substance.
Wada’s new code will be presented in November and, if ratified, come into effect in 2015. At the heart of it is an aim to widen the net in the battle against doping. “It’s a much more effective code as it’s one for the entourage as well – picking up the coaches, agents and physios,” Fahey told The Independent. “It says they can be dealt with in the same fashion as an athlete.”
Wada will also target athletes who use coaches and advisors who have been found guilty of doping in the past. “These aren’t registered people but what we’re saying is that athletes who use that person will suffer the sanctions of an anti-doping violation. We can do that. Here I’m talking about the Victor Contes [behind the Balco Laboratory scandal that incorporated the likes of Marion Jones and Dwain Chambers] of this world, an admitted cheat that’s done time. So it’s increased penalties to include the entourage.”
The fight against the “entourage” is one repeatedly pushed by the UK Anti-Doping chief executive, Andy Parkinson, and more recently by Brian Cookson, the presidential candidate for cycling’s governing body, the UCI, who as part of his manifesto has been asking for sanctions for managers, team staff and doctors of riders found guilty of doping.
To date, coaches, agents and physios whose athletes have tested positive for banned substances have been beyond the realms of Wada’s punishment but Fahey is determined to change that.
Also at the heart of the code is a proposal for what Wada calls “full menu testing”. As Fahey explained: “Some anti-doping organisations are undertaking testing and not ticking the square for testing, say, steroids. That will be eliminated in the code. This is part of ensuring we have the best machinery to beat the cheats.”
The other key ingredient in the code is the proposal of four-year bans for the more serious offences, such as steroids. “The real cheats are going to get four-year bans, the ones with steroids and human growth hormone in their system, and that’s a big jump from the current two years,” he said. “The thinking is that not a lot of people come back from four years. OK, Justin Gatlin did, but there aren’t many.”
The severity of the proposed punishment is the major deterrent against cheats. But Fahey argues that education is another tool in that and part of Wada’s current annual budget of £28m to tackle global doping is being spent on teaching about the perils of doping.
“Take the drug CERA, which does wonders for people with kidney disease,” Fahey said. “That also has the capacity to give heart attacks and cause deaths, that’s the risk the athletes take. That knowledge needs to be passed on.”