Battle for control of Olympic drug tests

The Games' ruling body says it will clamp down on doping. But can it be trusted?

The scandal-ridden International Olympic Committee has stolen a march on its many critics by launching the first world-wide agency to combat drugs in sport. At an international anti-drugs conference starting tomorrow in Sydney, the IOC will seek to consolidate its coup by ensuring that its newly-formed World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) is in charge of testing athletes for drugs at the Olympics in September.

The scandal-ridden International Olympic Committee has stolen a march on its many critics by launching the first world-wide agency to combat drugs in sport. At an international anti-drugs conference starting tomorrow in Sydney, the IOC will seek to consolidate its coup by ensuring that its newly-formed World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) is in charge of testing athletes for drugs at the Olympics in September.

Critics say this presents the IOC with a conflict of interest, as it runs the Olympics as a business and will now tackle the potentially embarrassing problem of athletes taking drugs at the Games. In the past the IOC has hidden major dope scandals to protect the Games's reputation.

The role of Wada is expected to be the main topic of the drugs summit, which will bring together ministers and officials from 27 countries, including China, Russia and the United States. But with the next Olympics less than a year away, and no other more credible alternative proposed, resistance to the IOC plan is crumbling.

The past 18 months have seen one drugs scandal after another in sport. July 1998 saw the unedifying spectacle of the French police carrying out raids on Tour de France teams. Tests on cyclists showed traces of cannabis, amphetamines, steroids and human growth hormone, plus the current drug of choice, EPO (erythropoietin). It was the police and court authorities which uncovered the scandal, not the relevant sporting bodies.

Shortly afterwards a Chinese woman swimmer was suspended for four years after carrying banned drugs in her luggage to the world championships in Australia. Four other Chinese swimmers received two-year bans for using banned substances.

The IOC, which started drug testing at the 1968 Olympics, acknowledges that drug use is escalating. "30 years later, it has unfortunately become clear that ... doping is spreading at terrifying rate," the organisation has said.

Both European Union ministers and President Bill Clinton's drug czar, General Barry McCaffrey, have been highly critical of the IOC, and wanted the creation of an independent agency. In February Britain's then sports minister, Tony Banks, said he and his EU colleagues unanimously opposed the proposed composition of the agency. But last week the EU Commissioner for Sport, Viviane Reding, said her talks with the IOC's Spanish president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, had brought them closer to agreement.

Gen McCaffrey complained earlier this year that the IOC's legitimacy has been damaged by "alleged corruption, lack of accountability and the failure in leadership". Effective action against drugs was vital: "We have to protect the belief of 12-year-olds that you don't have to use drugs and there will be a level playing field if you choose to compete." Gen McCaffrey is attending this week's conference, but it is not yet clear whether the US will bow to the IOC's fait accompli. The Australian government also wanted an independent agency, and proposed that it should run drug testing at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The IOC opposed this behind the scenes, arguing that it never allowed government involvement in running the Olympics. This, it said, would break the terms under which the 2000 Olympics were awarded to Sydney.

"Australia's position remains that the agency's operations must be open and transparent," the country's minister of sport, Jack Kelly, said last week. His government says it will bring criminal charges against any athlete who brings performance-enhancing drugs into the country - the first time such a threat has been made.

When IOC plans for the new agency were announced at the beginning of the year, the 78-year-old Mr Samaranch let it be known that he would like to run it. But Mr Samaranch's failure to prevent corruption in the IOC ruined his chances, as did an interview he gave to a Spanish newspaper, in which he suggested the list of banned drugs should be sharply cut and punishment limited to those cases in which the athlete is physically harmed. Instead the IOC has appointed its vice-chairman, Dick Pound, a Canadian lawyer, to head Wada. Mr Pound ran the special investigation into last year's allegations of corruption in the IOC, which led to the resignation or expulsion of ten IOC members earlier this year.

The IOC has put $25m (£15m) into Wada, and has proposed lifetime bans and fines of up to $1m for serious offenders. But its reputation for catching illegal dope-users is poor.

Most notoriously, from the 1960s to the 1980s the East German state ran a systematic covert drug programme that allowed East German athletes, particularly swimmers, to win large numbers of Olympic medals. Former East German swimming coaches were eventually prosecuted.

Less than a tenth of one per cent of athletes have ever been tested positive at any Olympiad, a statistic that defies credibility when the use of drugs in sport is known to be rampant.

"Their philosophy is: don't do too much, don't catch too many," said Arnold Beckett, a member of the IOC drugs team from 1968 to 1993. "Make sure not to get gold medal winners. Don't discredit your sport."

INSIDE LINES, SPORT, PAGE 2

MICHELLE SMITH-DE BRUIN

Ireland's triple Olympic swimming champion, Michelle Smith-de Bruin, 29, was given a four-year ban for manipulating a urine sample before a random test. Her appeal last June failed. She won three medals at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

PETR KORDA

Czech tennis star Petr Korda tested positive for steroid nandrolene at Wimbledon, only to escape without a suspension due to "exceptional circumstances". His appeal to the Court of Arbitration in Sport in Switzerland failed.

DIANE MODAHL

British runner Diane Modahl, the 1990 Commonwealth 800 metres champion, successfully challenged a positive drugs test at a later Games. She was completely exonerated. The litigation led to the bankrupting of the British Athletics Federation.

BEN JOHNSON

At the 1988 Seoul Olympics the Canadian sprinter was stripped of his 100m gold medal and world record after testing positive for the steroid stanozolol.In 1993, aged 31, he was banned from athletics for life after failing another drug test.

LINFORD CHRISTIE

Former Olympic 100m champion Linford Christie, 39, was cleared by the UK authorities last September after a positive drugs test for nandrolene, but is still under investigation by the International Amateur Athletics Federation.

RICHARD VIRENQUE

France's top cyclist Richard Virenque, 29, of the Festina team, was thrown out of last year's Tour de France following police inquiries into drug use by a number of cycling teams. The investigation continues, but Virenque is still racing.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Humanities and Economics Teacher - January 2015 - Malaysia

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

SEN Teaching Assistant needed for long term assignment

£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experienc...

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain