WADA will test half the olympic hopefuls before games

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The Independent Online

Leaders of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said in Lausanne, Switzerland today that they expect to perform 2,500 out of competition tests before the Olympic Games this summer in addition to those performed by national federations. That would mean half the athletes in Sydney would have been screened prior to the Games.

At the same time a top IOC official said he doubted a test for erythropoietine or EPO would be ready in time for the upcoming Games.

"We plan to have as many as 2,500 tests under our program," said Dick Pound, an International Olympic Committee vice president who provisionally heads WADA, following a one-day meeting at IOC headquarters. "With national and international federations performing unannounced testing as well, that would be in excess of 5,000 out-of-competition tests performed.

"That would mean on average one in two athletes participating in Sydney will have been tested in unexpected circumstances."

Pound said WADA expected out-of-competition test But if WADA committed itself to increasing unannounced testing, it was unable to promise the development of an approved test for detecting the popular drug EPO in time for the Sydney Games.

While Pound said research was still underway and it was still possible such tests would be developed in time for the Games, Arne Ljungqvist, a highly respected member of the IOC medical commission said he didn't think it would be possible.

"I honestly don't believe so," said Ljungqvist. "It will take a year at least if the test is to meet all the criteria to meet all the legal demands.

"I've heard plenty of rumors but seen no facts that anyone has come up with a valid test."

However, Pound and other WADA members refused to rule out the possibility.

"I'm not prepared to confirm there will not be a test," said Pound, touted as one of the strongest candidates to succeed IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch when he steps down next year. "I hope there will be a test.

"If there is one that is developed, it will be given scientific assessment by outside experts on a fast track basis. If it's ready, we'll use it."

WADA said it also stressed to governments the importance of immediate access to countries for out of competition testing.

Currently, in many countries, testers are denied entry visas for weeks, allowing cheating athletes time to purge their systems.

"If governments don't comply we'll raise a wall of shame," said Pound. "It's not in a government's interest to have it known they are hindering out-of-competition testing."

Regarding tests results management at the Sydney Games, the IOC said it will continue to have authority over drug testing, analysis and sanctions, but WADA will be present to monitor the process and be informed of any positive tests.

"In Sydney, the responsible authority is the IOC medical commission," said Pound. "But it will have to make the material available to WADA.

"WADA provides an outside review of the testing procedure."

At previous Games the head of the IOC panel was the only official to receive the drug test results from the doping lab. In Sydney, four other people will be notified.

The group will report any positive findings to the full IOC medical commission, which will make recommendations to the IOC executive board. The board will continue to have the sole authority to disqualify athletes for a doping offense.

In addition, a full report on drug test results will be issued within a month of the closing of the games.

Early in the meeting, the agency amended its statutes to extend its membership to include 17 representatives of governments, four from Europe, four from North American, four from Asia, three from Oceania and three from Africa. It also includes 17 members from the IOC.

It also appointed an executive committee with representatives from the five continents.

Canada's Secretary of State Don Coderre represents North America, while Australia's Minister for Justice and Customs Amanda Vanstone stands for Oceania and South Africa's Minister of Sport and Recreation Ngconde Balfour, Africa. Europe and Asia needed more time to designate someone.

Johann Olav Koss of the IOC athletes' commission, Prince Alexandre de Merode, chairman of the IOC Medical Commission, and Hein Verbruggen, an IOC member and president of the International Cycling Union, were also elected to the board.

Finally, WADA said it was actively seeking a new home and a new CEO.

The agency said it would draw up a list of terms and conditions for both, would evaluate offers, and expects to come to a decision within a year.

WADA is temporarily based in Lausanne, home of the IOC.