Sir Craig Reedie: This isn’t simply a fight against drugs; it’s an ongoing battle to protect clean athletes

The World Anti-Doping Agency’s president says it would be naive for us to assume the fight against doping can be entirely won

Dick Pound used to say that athletes often have a level of intelligence below room temperature, and there’s an element of truth in that. Six months into my tenure as president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, you do sometimes have to wonder why people do what they do.

The only rational answer is that they are so totally devoted to what they’re doing that they will seek anything remotely possible that will help improve their performance whatever the legalities or ramifications. 

I know it’s going back a few years now but take the case of Balco. It took the scientist Don Catlin three weeks to even work out what the substance (THG) was, let alone wonder about the potentially hazardous health effects for those taking it.

When that’s the situation you can’t help but ask athletes “what are you doing?”. It’s deeply worrying but that’s what we’re up against in the fight against doping. People have told me to be cynical in this job and you need that to a certain degree but I’ve always been a glass-half-full sort of person. 

Sport has produced some of the most wonderful moments and those still outweigh the bad, the cheats that are out there. That’s not to suggest Wada is resting on its laurels – far from it in fact. 

I wouldn’t say we’ve beaten the fight against doping – it would be naive to assume the battle can be entirely won.  Wada plays a vital role in staying ahead of the cheats and providing a level playing field for the clean athletes.

On the balance of things, I think there is a sense that the good guys are making progress. The rules are better than ever before and the emphasis on the fight against doping is as good as it ever has been.

We’ve got our priorities right with the new World Anti-Doping Code, which comes into being on 1 January – it’s a matter of making sure we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet. There were 4,000 separate suggestions put to the code team and the fact it was almost unanimously accepted shows great unity in the fight against doping. 

One of the key areas is to catch the entourage behind those doping. All the evidence suggests that if someone tests positive there is someone in the background. It might be a friend – and I use the term loosely – saying “take this, it’ll help” and naively athletes don’t question it.  Or else you have something more sinister like the Balco situation at the other end of the spectrum, which was outrageous in the extreme. 

With this we want athletes to be aware of the damage that doping can do but also the perils of associating with the wrong people too, hence there being a section in the code on prohibited association such as coaches and agents who have previously been caught up in doping.

There’s a sense there might be more whistleblowers coming forward. We rely on athletes to tell us what’s going on out there.  Take the Tyson Gay case and his reduced sentence. It’s not something I can comment on directly with enquiries ongoing but it raises interesting issues.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency has cut his ban because of substantial assistance, and that is something we at Wada are satisfied with. Wada scrutinises all substantial assistance cases individually, and we do not accept a case if it sits outside the parameters of the code.

Often information is confidential, and you just have to allow a certain amount of leeway and hope details can be made public in future. Another key aspect of the Wada code moving forward is sport-specific analysis for anti-doping.

My predecessor John Fahey used to say “you don’t give chess players HGH”. This sport-specific approach is currently in a preliminary period of consultation. We have a working group liaising closely with the various federations and governing bodies to establish how best to deal with that.

It’s a code that’s ever-changing. Just take the example of xenon gas, which came to the public mindset at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. I was talking to one or two of the world’s leading scientists about it on an informal basis. It seemed to be that this was potentially dangerous and it was taken to the Wada list committee and put on the banned list at the earliest possible point. 

People have a right to be cynical about sportsmen and women but rather than assume that we are in a never-ending fight against doping, in reality our goals are more aligned with protecting the clean athlete.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Junior Web Developer- CSS, HMTL

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

AX Developer With EPOS Experience

£450 - £500 per day: Progressive Recruitment: Dynamics AX / Developer / AX2012...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz