US drug official wins British backing on doping agency

The US drug czar won British backing today for his proposals for an independent anti-doping agency that is not controlled by the International Olympic Committee.

The US drug czar won British backing today for his proposals for an independent anti-doping agency that is not controlled by the International Olympic Committee.

Barry McCaffrey, head of the White House drug policy office, is on a European tour to build consensus for a "truly independent" international agency to lead the fight against performance-enhancing drugs.

McCaffrey is opposed to the IOC's plans for a world anti-doping agency on grounds that it lacks full independence, transparency and accountability. But the IOC said today it plans to set up the agency next month and have it up and running by the end of the year.

In a joint communique issued at the end of a two-day summit in London with British anti-drugs coordinator Keith Hellawell, Britain endorsed McCaffrey's five basic principles:

- A truly independent and accountable world anti-doping agency.

- Testing on a year-round, no-notice basis.

- No statute of limitations for doping offenses.

- Preservation of samples so they can be tested years later when new detection techniques are developed.

- Advanced research.

McCaffrey will press his initiative on Wednesday in Brussels with members of the European Commission, and on Thursday in Lisbon with drug policy officials of the 15 European Union countries.

In an interview, McCaffrey said he hopes to enlist European opposition to the IOC's anti-doping framework.

"If we don't act, we're going to have a Swiss corporation, the International Olympic Committee, assert that they can unilaterally decide on a drug testing agency that won't in fact be independent and probably won't achieve the results and won't have credibility with the world's athletes," he said.

McCaffrey said the agency will only be independent if it has "the ability to act without being a wholly owned subsidiary to the IOC."

He said he expects support from Britain, France, Germany, Canada and Australia at a 26-nati looking for a fight," he said, "but clearly we have a heavy responsibility. ... I can't imagine we're going to continue to ignore a situation that we think is untenable."

McCaffrey said he would be happy to meet with IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch to discuss the issues. And despite the continuing standoff, he said he expects the sides can work together and reach some sort of consensus.

"At the end of the day, I have a feeling that rational thought will win out," McCaffrey said. "I can't imagine there isn't going to be a sensible outcome."

The IOC spokesman Franklin Servan-Schreiber said today that the IOC was pressing ahead with creation of the agency with or without McCaffrey's approval.

He said the agency, set up as a Swiss foundation, will be formally launched on 10 November with the appointment of a board of directors.

Servan-Schreiber said European sports ministers had responded favorably to the IOC project and the EU's new sports commissioner, Viviane Reding, will meet with Samaranch in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 2 November.

The spokesman said the IOC could not control the agency because the 24-member board would include only three representatives from the IOC.

"There has never been any question of the IOC controlling the agency," Servan-Schreiber said. "And the claim that the IOC should not be involved at all seems to us a little unfair considering we were the ones who stepped up to the plate."

The agency will initially be located in Lausanne, pending a decision on a permament site. Other cities which have expressed interest in serving as headquarters for the agency include Athens, Greece; Lille, France; Lisbon, Portugal; Luxembourg; Madrid, Spain; and Vienna, Austria.

McCaffrey cited Vienna as a "very attractive" option.