International conference seeks to combat drugs in sport

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The Independent Online

A 30-nation conference on the use of illegal drugs in sports opened today with the aim of coordinating and funding world efforts to combat the problem.

A 30-nation conference on the use of illegal drugs in sports opened today with the aim of coordinating and funding world efforts to combat the problem.

The second meeting of the intergovernmental anti-doping group followed a two-day session in Oslo of the World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA, which was set up in November 1998.

Canadian Dick Pound, an International Olympic Committee official who heads WADA, urged the participating countries to help bear the cost of stopping the illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs.

"Our joint commitment must be that, whatever the cost to win the fight against doping in sport, we will bear it together within a context that we will design together," he said in opening remarks.

WADA is currently funded by the IOC, but, starting in 2002, cooperating governments are being asked to provide half of its budget, which was set at dlrs 14.3 million for next year.

Funding schemes being considered at the two-day closed session include sharing the cost based on the size and economy of the contributor or the number of athletes they send to the Summer and Winter Olympics.

The Oslo meeting follows up the November 1999 International Summit on Drugs in Sport in Australia and the first meeting of the International Intergovernmental Consultive Group on Anti-Doping in Sport, held in Canada in February. The Oslo meeting was being jointly chaired by Norway, Canada and Australia.

Pound said the countries should give WADA a chance, even though it is an unusual mix of governments and private sports organizations.

"We know this is not a normal environment in which you act as governments, but hope you will this hybrid form of organization a chance to mature and flourish," he said. "The field in which we are acting may require creative solutions."

Delegates were also discussing ways to harmonize and standardize anti-doping laws and rules.

"The harmonization of government laws and regulations is a complex issue," Norwegian Minister of Culture Ellen Horn said. Norway has just proposed legal reforms that would make it illegal to produce or possess many types of performance-enhancing drugs.

A paper prepared for the meeting said delegates should seek a consensus on national laws and activities that could be harmonized globally and what authority could be surrendered to international groups, such as WADA.

It also said they should identify national barriers to world standards, like cultural norms and economic realities.

Other topics at the Oslo meeting included the establishment of national and regional anti-doping programs.

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