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.

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
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

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £35000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Teacher

£130 - £131 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Ks1 teacher required for m...

Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

£38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

MI Analyst and SQL Developer (SQL, SSAS, SSRS)

£28000 - £32500 Per Annum + 28 days holiday, pension, discounts and more: Clea...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?