BBC BLOGS - Matt Slater
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
« Previous | Main | Next »

Why the Code's not it for Wada

Post categories:

Matt Slater | 14:43 UK time, Thursday, 19 February 2009

In 1985, under growing market pressure from Pepsi, Coca-Cola decided to replace the world's premier fizzy pop with a sweeter version of its treacly treat. That drink, which almost immediately became known as "New Coke", was launched to considerable fanfare in April.

But three months later, after a massive consumer campaign, the vote was in: you can't beat the real thing.

So New Coke was phased out, old Coke came back and the entire episode passed into marketing folklore as a cautionary tale about messing with a winning formula.

It is a story somebody should have told the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) before it updated its code this year, because the message from the high street is clear: "new code" is horrible, we want "code classic".

But before I get into the latest market research I should provide a little background.

I say "little" because when I first sat down to do this I proceeded to write 500 words on how Wada got started, what it stands for, the challenges it faces and the restraints it is under.

ohuruogu.jpg

It was a roller-coaster read but I suspected only Wada staff would still be with me by the time I got to what Wikipedia has already dubbed "the whereabouts controversy".

Whereabouts, just so we're clear, is the IT-based system drug-testers use to keep track of athletes.

Without it, the thinking goes, out-of-competition testing would be almost impossible. Without out-of-competition testing you can just about forget catching cheats - in-competition testing only catches the spiked or the stupid.

So whereabouts is fundamental to everything Wada does and was a key component of its most significant act to date, the introduction of the global anti-doping code in 2004.

As a first stab the code was a great effort. But like all first stabs it didn't quite get the job done. The main issue was its patchy implementation.

Whereabouts and how it was actually run - a job that Wada leaves to others - was perhaps the most egregious example of this. To keep things local, let's look at what was happening here.

Prior to 1 January, potential British Olympians were asked to pick an hour a day - five days a week, three months in advance - when they could be found to provide a sample.

The window was 0500-2300, so many took the option of an early call at home. As the athlete was only required to be at the stated place for a portion of that hour (the onus being on the tester to be in the right place at the right time), this suited those who put in two-hour training sessions before the rest of us have breakfast.

It was also only a minor imposition for those who trained later in the day. And practically every athlete wanted whereabouts to work, as they knew no-notice tests were the only real deterrent to the dopers.

They also understood the need to back whereabouts with teeth, so there was little quarrel with the decision to equate missed tests (not being where you said you would be) with a failed test.

Three strikes in an 18-month period and you were out, as Christine Ohuruogu learned to her cost in a very public reckoning that few, if any, in Team GB failed to notice.

But, as the Ohuruogu case showed, while whereabouts was the foundation for a robust anti-doping policy for many sports, it was not every sport. Nor was it every country.

A consultation process (more on that later) was started, resulting in the recent launch of a system that sees British Olympians, in theory, subject to the same requirements as their counterparts from America to Zanzibar, with the main team sports joining later in 2009.

The five days a week of stated hours is now seven days, the earliest hour you can choose is 0600, not 0500, and most significantly they now have to stay put for the full hour.

On top of these changes, Wada has decided to combine the strikes you were allowed for missing tests and those you were allowed for failing to fill in your form correctly.

Suddenly it has become very easy - and the whereabouts form is not the finest piece of software ever written - to find yourself one third of the way from a career-threatening and reputation-wrecking ban.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

It is no exaggeration to say that many British Olympians are furious about all this. Ohuruogu has just re-entered the fray, claiming elite athletes are treated worse than criminals. And you should know something is up when the normally mild-mannered GB rowing squad start acting like 1970s shop stewards.

Leading tennis players like Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Venus Williams aren't best pleased either. And the team sports are getting their complaints in early.

So how on earth did this happen? Who exactly did Wada consult? And what must happen now to keep the anti-doping movement on track?

The answers to the first and second questions go straight to the heart of the problem.

The Montreal-based organisation is funded on a 50/50 split by the International Olympic Committee and world governments. Finding agreement between the sports is hard enough, imagine how difficult that becomes when you throw in the agendas of 200 sports ministers.

To get anything done Wada leans on its lieutenants, the sports federations and, where they exist, national anti-doping authorities. Consultation is more about the right channels than direct democracy.

If, for example, Premier League footballers had a beef about having to fill out whereabouts details for their holidays, they needed to bring it up with the Professional Footballers' Association, who would speak to the Football Association, who would then pass that on to Fifa.

The result? Not a great deal of actual consultation with the guys at the sharp end.

Which is why Wada was in London this week holding emergency meetings with the representatives of Britain's Olympic and professional sports stars.

It is a shame it has had to happen this way around but everybody present at the meeting has said they welcomed Wada's willingness to talk. And Wada has said it is willing to carry on talking.

What it has not said, however, is that it will turn the clock back. In fact, it has made it very clear that it believes a lot of the complaints about the new requirements are the result of ignorance, basic human resistance to change and old-fashioned bellyaching.

It may have a point.

But it is not a stance it should hold on to too tightly. No piece of legislation - particularly something as broad as the code - can ever be perfect and there are some quick fixes that should placate the masses.

One simple step would be to put the start of the window back to 0500. It might seem a small detail but if you are expected in or on the water at 0700 it can make all the difference. Wada should also reconsider the shift in onus from tester to tested in terms of who is there for the full hour.

More work should also be done on the technology that whereabouts depends on. It seems crazy to me that the software has not been designed to flag up information that makes no sense.

Think about what happens when you try to book return travel tickets for a date before your outward journey - the system won't let you. The whereabouts page allows you to make these potentially catastrophic mistakes.

There is something else Wada should consider.

Where there is a willingness to go further than whereabouts - and the technology exists to make it happen - why bother with a stated-hour system?

One of the most revealing things that many GB Olympians have been saying is scrap the online diary: track us 24/7/365 with our mobile phones.

The British Athletes Commission was in talks with Vodafone last year on this very subject. The UK anti-doping authorities got scared off by the cost implications but with Google now doing something similar those costs have obviously come down.

This is clearly not a one-size-fits-all solution, only wealthy countries and sports could afford something like this, but if they can why not let them? You could pursue a more lo-tech option for others.

So let's be clear: Wada's mission is difficult, its limitations are legion and its intentions are among the very best.

But as Oscar Wilde once said "it is always with the best intentions that the worst work is done".

What Wada must admit now is that this work is a work in process and there is no disgrace in taking the occasional backwards step.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    One of the best written articles on this website. With regard the onus being on tested, rather than testers, presumably the rationale is to increase the number of tests that can be done. If every athlete is at 5am, and they only need to be there for 1 minute of the hour then a tester can only plan to undertake one test per hour. This would reduce the numbers of tests done and therefore the risk of getting caught.

    Why not allow athletes to choose an hour every three months, then WADA set a 15 minute window within the hour when they must be there. If everyone is in bed anyway it won't matter if you get 5am, or 5.45am. The onus is shared and the tester could do 4 tests (particularly given athletes train in clusters and presumably live fairly close together)

    Seems fair, and WADA multiply the number of tests and deter the cheats

  • Comment number 2.

    Very interesting article Matt enjoyed it a lot.

    I am actually starting to feel more for the athletes on this one. As you say, when people like the rowers are having a bit of a moan you know there are some serious issues here.

    I agree that the WADA's job is incredibly difficult and everyone wants everything done that can be to ensure that athletes are clean. But it does seem they've gone too far with a couple of things. Why not introduce things gradually, like keeping the times the same but introducing 6-day testing instead of 5? And I don't really understand why the athlete has to be there for the entire hour? Once the sampling's been done why can't they go on their merry way?

    All in all its a shame that we're at this point now. The athletes obviously want a level playing field and to know the people they're up against are clean. The spectators also want this, as do the authorities but something's not right if measures to improve things have been met with such disapproval. But at least they are listening and consulting and hopefully the issues will be ironed out before long.

  • Comment number 3.

    Good article.
    The one thing I don't understand about testing is that if someone misses a test, why can't they be informed by phone to turn up at a test centre within a few hours to be medically examined (for blood transfussion needle marks - just in case they just had a blood transfussion in the meantime) and to take a test there and then. Surely that would reduce the incidents of competitors missing tests due to emergencies, breakdowns etc.

  • Comment number 4.

    I have always found these measures to be somewhat draconian, with so little room for error that people will be incorrectly blamed. Several sportsmen have said they would rather retire at 2 missed tests than accidentally miss a third.

    If you were to miss a test, and they contact you for your whereabouts, could you not provide a sample within a designated time (say 12hrs) to negate a missed test.

    Furthermore, why does it have to be a whole hour they have to stick around for, why not set a time in 10/15 minute blocks, so as to compromise with regards to who has to be there.

  • Comment number 5.

    I appreciate WADA's challenge. But I find the idea that sportsmen will know where they are weeks into the future absurd. Tennis players do not know how long they will stay in a tournament, and often leave the moment they are knocked out - how do you factor that in? People get injured and have to recuperate. Personal events (death of a family member) can upset the best laid plans.

    You could stop drug-taking in sport immediately by banning all sport completely. 100% effective, but of course nobody would be so draconian (or stupid). What WADA's scheme lacks is any sense or reasonable compromise. Allow sportsmen to change their minds, allow them to forget and be reprimanded, allow a retake a few hours later. In short, treat sportsmen like adults - and I bet they will feel more sympathetic to WADA's point of view.

  • Comment number 6.

    My first big problem is that WADA is a self-publicising bureaucracy.

    My second big problem is that very few sports outside of cycling & track atheletics have had any more than a miniscule amount of dope cheating histories.

    When was the last time football, rugby, cricket, tennis,swimming had a steroid-inbibing cheat. If these and loads of other sports ever turn up positive tests, it's for social/recreational drugs that have naff all to do with enhancing performance on the field.

    Why tar the rest of the world with the same brush? Tackle the problem where it's endemic.

  • Comment number 7.

    Coleusman -

    Cycling is a sport where doping is taken so seriously and this is why it inevitably suffers. Where you have intense testing, you'll get proper results, and that is why there absolutely should be the same amount or at least a similar amount in other sports.

    As for your claim that because there are very few positive tests in certain sports, if you think about it, so often footballers have admitted to taking recreational drugs - is this reflected in drugs tests? No. The sad truth is that to catch cheats you need an intense testing system within the sport.

    I'd just like to say that on the behalf of cycling, this is a sport which is time and again used as a scapegoat. Honestly, in all the sports you have stated there will be plenty of cheats, because there will always be cheats when the cheating is benefitial, and there will be even more cheating with a half hearted testing system.

    Cycling, like other sports, has a big doping issue, and for your information it is being tackled. Now it's time for other sports to take the same action, and prove that they're cleaner - because evidence is needed to backup those claims - for evidence there needs to be a fair comparison, and for a fair comparison there needs to be the same level of testing.

  • Comment number 8.

    The old code had flaws but in general it worked whee it was applied properly. The problem was that local associations often did not apply either the code nor the punishments.

    The change from 0500 tp 0600 and to the full hour to be honest smacks of change for change sake, an attempt to make it look like they are getting tough or worse sheer spite. Those should be reverted immediately.

    The 7-days-a-week thing is also a problem. In lifr you get things happen that you can not plan for 3 months ahead of time, this used to be manageable for athletes but now will no longer be the case. Either the 5-days rule needs to come back or the time ahead needs to be significantly reduced. I see n reason personally why they need to know more than 2 weeks in advance.

    And the whole form filling thing is a load of tosh, it should be as simple as possible and there should be no limit on the number of blemishes, if it happens often nough with one athlete to be a problem then deal with that individually by training them to use it.

  • Comment number 9.

    Cemonien,

    I'm a big cycling fan but I think that there is proof that most other sports do not have the same scale drugs problem of cycling. How many football/rugby/cricket players have died in their sleep due to drug use? Of course there are footballers taking drugs, the Juventus Doctor scandal a few years back an example, but these incidents are pretty rare. Obviously you could say that they are only rare because other sports are not tested as often or as rigorously as cyclists are. But I believe the big difference is that cycling is probably 95% aerobic and physical capability, whereas with other sports, especially team sports, the emphasis on aerobic and physical ability is not as great, there is more reliance on skill which is not something drugs would necessarily improve.
    It makes sense that in sports where the winner is the person who trains the hardest for the longest time (e.g. in cycling, athletics, etc.) the use of drugs is going to be more prevalent than in a sport where the best player in the world can train as many hours in a week than an athlete might train in a day.
    Back on topic, and I agree with other posters who have asked why, if they miss the allotted time period, they can not just get to the tester within a certain timeframe. But then WADA would probably say that they cannot have testers waiting around all day, they are probably moving throughout the country, so where would the athlete be able to take his test?

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    This is a problem that does go back down to the core of all sport whether we like it or not.

    I am a rugby, cycling, and football fan in that order.

    I was also a moderator on David Millars own website before he closed it down during his 2 year ban for EPO, so I'd like to feel that I have a fairly good handle on this rather touchy subject.

    Cycling is - as usual - leading the way in the fight against drug cheats because it is possibly the most physically demanding sport in the world, a sport where you race flat out for 6 hours a day at least without a break, and a sport where drug cheating will give a great benefit.
    Cycling though has brought in the concept of blood passports last year, where all the blood tests are kept together on an on-line database to keep close checks on a cyclists blood levels in and out of competition. This system therefore gives the anit-doping authorities a good average of where each particular cyclists blood component counts should be, therefore making it difficult for a cyclist to argue that they have naturally high levels. They also take into consideration all high altitude training to get levels for that.

    David Millars own team have gone further still, and test their own team with their own anti-drug testing team, who are now doing further tests on other teams too. These are cycling teams doing their utmost to root out the drug cheats. Millars team is also sponsored by Garmin. Not only does this mean that the team get really fancy cycling computers with sta-nav on them, it also means that the cyclists themselves are trackable wherever and whenever WADA or their own drug testing wants them. They can literally find them and drug test them on the side of a road during a training ride. Funnilly enough none of the team have any gripes about that as they all want a level playing field.

    Finally.....one last point.

    Operation Puerto in 2006 uncovered massive amounts of blood doping being done by a Spanish Doctor. A lot of cyclists were implicated in this bust. The doctor behnd the blood doping did actually come out and say that his Hippocratic oath restricted him from laying out the full details of all his clients, however he did admit to have the names of several top 100 tennis players, olympic athletes, and cyclists on his books. All of these Federations have looked further into the problem.
    He also admited to having football player on the books too from top Primera Liga football teams......

    Funny how no-one has heard a thing about how Fifa are doing anything about that.

    Just because your favourite sport doesn't have any high profile drug cheats (Rio Ferdinand not withstanding - he'd have got a 2 year ban for that if he was a cyclist, and he certainly wouldn't have had a job afterwards) doesn't mean that it does not exists, and that it's simply not being hidden by the obscene money in your favourite sports.

    Remember that the winner of the priemer cycling event in the world, the Tour De France, only walks away with £350,000. A top flight footballer earns that in the same 3 week spell in July for maybe 5 games of football, not 2500 miles of pain.

    Football has too much money in it to ever suffer a drug taking scandal

  • Comment number 12.

    Cemonien,

    Agree with what you're saying. Cycling has a negative image to a lot of the general public, which is unfortunate as this is due to the strict drugs testing weeding out the drug cheats. It makes headlines when a drugs cheat is caught, but cycling is doing something right in catching the cheats. If the cycling chief’s just sat back, did as much as most other sports do in drugs testing then cycling would have a better image to the general public. I would say that the people in charge of cycling have been brave to implement the regime knowing it will cost them money (through the back-out of sponsors, tv rights, etc).
    I feel sorry for the sportsmen/women who have to go through the new WADA testing, as it does infringe on their normal lives. If they were at home and a friend asked them to go to the pub, then would they have to asked permission from WADA to do that? I do think it infringes on their human rights. I don’t really understand what increasing the number of days and hours available actually achieves; just employ more staff to do the testing.

  • Comment number 13.

    Some very interesting (and obvious) points, why not send your article to WADA and see what they have to say?

  • Comment number 14.

    I find it incredible how many athletes are being outspoken against rules that are being put in place to help clean up the sport and that hardly any athletes are outspoken about drugs in sport on a normal basis.

    When Radcliffe was outspoken in the past she was more or less ostrocised and the athletes were not exactly supportive of her.

    If the athletes do not want to actively help clean up the sport then they must simply accept the laws that are put in place.

    We as the public deserve to be protected from the cheats.

  • Comment number 15.

    If you want the benefits of being a world class athletes you have to deal with the odd difficulty as well

    The system is not as hard as all these athletes make out.

    If you are not where you are suposed to be you text or email and change your location. You are not BOUND to that location for the next three months.

    Isinbeyeva moaning she doesn't know where she is going to be in 2 weeks.

    Well I hazard a guess you know when you will be training so list that venue and if it changes then you tell WADA.

    I've been on the old system and now up to 7 days a week. my slot is 7-8am when I am in bed. If I am not going to be there or want to stay with the girlfriend then I can text that change in location to UK sport up to a minute before 7am. I isn't hard.

    Whereabout systems do not mean you are forced to be somewhere you don't want to be.

    These athletes simply cannot be bothered to remember and want all the responsibility for their own careers taken off them.

  • Comment number 16.

    The obvious problem with the new WADA rules, really affects tennis players-who week-in week-out are playing tournaments worldwide and at short notice they drop in and out of tournaments.
    For example, if a player gives notice that they are in Washington in April 10-17th for a tournament. Then if that player is injured on the 7th and elects to withdraw and have surgery in Germany. Then the player can potentially miss a test because they are not where they said they would be.
    You can argue well that is their job as professional athletes to be tested and follow the rules. But some train like professional athletes but actually have other jobs.
    I don't see why it needs to be seven days a week athletes need to be available. Why can't they select any three days as long as they are not consecutive days? It is not like you are dirty on Monday but clean by Wednesday. It seems that WADA is forgetting itself and is over-dosing on a power trip! And I certainly do not envisage these rules been enforced in many places in the world apart from Europe.

  • Comment number 17.

    The WADA rules are a disgrace to sport.

    It is not right to treat all top athletes as criminals, because a few are cheats.

    If the tests after the competitions aren't good enough, then they should improve the tests, but give the athletes some privacy and respect.


  • Comment number 18.

    It all depends how easily you can change the time and location. As long as you can modify it within a reasonable time frame (say, up to a day or two before) I can see no real cause for complaint. The 3 month in advance thing is probably mostly for administrative ease since many athletes *will* know where they will be that far in advance and won't need to make frequent changes.

    Most athletes get rather well rewarded for a job they (presumably) enjoy a great deal. Drug taking probably directly impacts the overall earning power of their sport and *definitely* their personal income, so I don't see these measures as unreasonable assuming changes to the schedule can be made at reasonably short notice.

  • Comment number 19.

    You CAN CHANGE your whereabouts at any time, are some of you guys missing that?

    If you drop out of a comp and go to Germany for treatment you just tell them you are going to Germany. It's not rocket science.

    You can change whereabouts even 5 minutes before your slot is due to start. The 3 month rule is just so you have a record of whereabouts should the athlete not update his schedule. The entire system is Athlete controlled and updated.

    It's hardly a "disgrace to sport", that's a ridiculous statement. If you relax rules you make it easier to cheat and more people will cheat. There is too much money involved to be left behind by the cheaters.

    They are not treating athletes as "criminals" they are giving them the opportunity to prove that they are clean.

    You shouldn't make comments like that if you don't actually know how the system works in the first place.

    If people didn't cheat we wouldn't need these systems, but they do, so we do.

  • Comment number 20.

    As to why athletes cannot give test later that day. The recent bans of Russian runners came when it was found they were warned of the forthcoming tests (because the WADA testers were seen at the airport) and were able to doctor the urine sample they gave. Apparently that is not nearly as difficult as it sounds, IF you have any warning. (The old joke is of the cyclist told the good news that he had passed the test and the bad news was that he was pregnant)

  • Comment number 21.

    There's been a lot of rubbish written about this, mostly as an excuse to rubbish a few sporting stars. How refreshing to find well researched, well considered piece.

    The problem for me is that WADA and, indeed, the whole anti-doping effort, seem to be coming from the direction of guilty until proved innocent. I get the impression they see themselves as a policing force within the sport with the objective of uncovering drug cheats. In reality they should be a service for the sportsmen and women so that they can prove they are above reproach.

    Without in any way compromising the effectiveness of the tests, anything that can be done to make the testing process easier for those being tested, should always be done.

  • Comment number 22.

    Better blog Mr. Slater. Just can't help thinking there may be some errors in the detail.

  • Comment number 23.

    FlyingHurdler: I am reluctant to take seriously points made by a man who calls himself an athlete, but is still in bed at 8am. What about athletes who have long since left the house at 6am?

    I have intimate knowledge of the new system, and it is a huge step back in terms of workability. Maybe not for you, but for the vast majority it is proving very difficult.

    As to the person who claims that athletes are 'rather well rewarded', this is only the case for a very few. In most cases athletes are probably making less than they would if they left sport and started a professional career. Adding an unworkable and very probably unjust testing regime may well see many of these lower earning sportspeople leaving sport for good.

  • Comment number 24.

    I for one think the 7 day a week plan has to stay. An athelete could presumably select the earliest slot on day 5, then have two "non-testing" days in their diary. Take drugs immediately after the slot ends and have the best part of 3 days for them to get out of the body.

    If sportspeople have the ability to text changes (and via the internet too?) I don't see a problem. I must admit that I would go for 24 hour testing windows, as many would probably just select times in the night, knowing they are going to be asleep in a particular location. As for sportspeople who may drop out of tournaments, tough. If all the people you are playing against are on drugs you will do badly, so the testing is benefitting you.

    Like it or not, people will cheat. Testing has to be done and the most important form of testing is out of competition. Some sports (like cycling) are clearly ahead of the game in terms of what they are doing, with things like the biological passport in place. Others like football seem to be ignoring it. I believe they said they didn't want blood testing at a recent major tournament as it was too expensive... for the richest sport in the world.

  • Comment number 25.

    While I think it a bit rude to go on blogs for other peoples sports and slag them off, I was linked to this blog from the article on WADA sticking their nose into football.

    While as others have pointed out above, that in cycling and athletics fitness is the whole point. The fittest wins, no actual skill as such involved. Why they are not interested and no one watches them, except for the four yearly pointless hoo-ha that is the Olympics.

    Why doesn't football tell WADA where to go? If you give Peter Crouch steroids will he become like Kaka? So my question is that as everyone knows this, why do FIFA have truck with WADA at all?

    And, if steroids help players return quicker from injury as prescribed by a doctor, I'd go as far as to say it might even be good for football.

  • Comment number 26.

    Surely the big flaw in the current system must be that the moment an athlete goes to court in defence of his/her human rights, she/he is going to win?

    WADA's PR has been lousy from its inception, particularly during the presidency of the unlamented Dick Pound. If it was seen to take the position that the majority of athletes are clean and honest, rather than assuming guilt, as David Tee argues, and designed its programmes with that in mind, it would be met with cooperation rather than opposition. As it is, it's too easy to present them as witchfinders.

    365 day availability is a stupid proposition, and needs to be rethought, before athletes rebel and it becomes a 'them or us' situation, with commercial pressure piled on WADA, leading possibly to its dissolution.



  • Comment number 27.

    how can wada just impose itself on athletes 365 daya a year. if somebody said to me i had to tell them where i'd be all the time i'd tell them where to stick it.

  • Comment number 28.

    number 25 sums it up nicely. who gave wada jurisdiction over the FIFA world cup, EUFA cup, various leagues. i dont particularly like blatter or platini but think they've got this one spot on

  • Comment number 29.

    WADA is on a disgraceful witchhunt against all the top athletes and I hope all athletes will fight for their right for privacy. The whereabouts rule is totally crazy and shows rather WADA's inability to discover doping. Test the athletes for doping before, during and after sports-events, but when they are not competing, leave them alone. It is not right to suspect everybody, because I am sure most athletes are clean. WADA should focus on improving their tests, instead of harassing all top athletes.

  • Comment number 30.

    The only reason WADA should exist is for the athletes, to protect them from cheats. It should be up to the athletes to decide how strict to be upon themselves, and up to them only. I only care about drugs in sports for the sakes of the athletes, if they are not bothered enough to submit themselves to such scrutiny, then neither am I.

    Leave it up to the athletes as a collective to decide. If most of them want a certain level of rigour, then they can exclude those that won't go through the same level.

  • Comment number 31.

    500 Words Matt?

    So on the basis that you are allowed 2 missed tests, should Rio have not been banned?

  • Comment number 32.

    grandeagleking - your points about getting rid of out of competition tests miss the point. Doping is not just about drugs in your system during competitions, it is about using drugs to improve training, then cleaning out your system in time for the competition. That is why out of competition tests are so important (as acknowledged in the blog). So it is not a case of improving the in-competition tests, because the drugs are not there when in-competition tests are done. But the benefit of the cheating is most definitely there and prevents a level playing field. If you want a clean sport, out of competition testing is absolutely necessary.

    as for whether the whereabouts system treats all athletes as suspects, I don't think that is the case. The system doesn't say "we think you are guilty and are going to catch you", it says "we need to test you regularly and without notice so that we know that we catch the guilty ones and therefore can be sure that you are clean".

    qjardine - dope tests are not an infringement of human rights. no athlete is being forced to play sport for a living, but if they want to play sport they need to accept that in this day and age doping is a problem and so measures need to be taken to combat it. People that work in diamond mines get searched every day - that is not an infringement of their rights, just a term of the job.

    Although drugs are more "beneficial" for some sports than others. it is incredibly niaive to think that football is immune just because there is a skill element. Sure, skill with the ball is vital but at the end of 90 minutes it all boils down to fitness. If you have 2 equally skillful players and one has taken EPO, I can guarantee that his skill level will be much much higher than the other guy at the end of the game. So doping is massively beneficial in football too. It does not make a donkey into a thoroughbred, but it helps a thoroughbred outlast another thoroughbred. The lack of people found to be positive in football does not indicate that there in no problem, especially when it is clear that the authorities in football do not take drug testing seriously.

  • Comment number 33.

    Surely the biggest issue here is that WADA is trying to implement a 'one size fits all' approach which is blatantly unrealistic. A professional footballer, for instance, may be 'in competition' twice - or more - a week. A sprinter may only compete every month or two. A footballer would therefore receive less benefit from 'out of competition' cheating (where they spend a minor percentage of their time) than a sprinter. WADA's current system is clearly geared up for individual athletic sports.

    For a footballer who qualifies for the next round of a European trophy to have to give their whereabouts three months in advance is impossible and plainly stupid. They may only know a week in advance. They may be dropped from the team or transferred out.

    Each sports governing organisation should be responsible for formulating an effective anti doping policy, with WADA providing technical expertise in implementing and overseeing it.

    Leave WADA to carry out its' nonsense 'whereabouts' policy and you will soon see professionals taking them to court and undermining the whole process.

  • Comment number 34.

    32. At 11:08pm on 11 May 2009, GsyLad wrote:

    "Although drugs are more "beneficial" for some sports than others. it is incredibly niaive to think that football is immune just because there is a skill element. Sure, skill with the ball is vital but at the end of 90 minutes it all boils down to fitness. If you have 2 equally skillful players and one has taken EPO, I can guarantee that his skill level will be much much higher than the other guy at the end of the game."

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    GsyLad you have it all wrong, some1 skill level will not improve with the football, its only his/her fitness level that will improve if drugs are taken. A defensive footballer taking EPO will never have the skills of a creative midfielder like Messi or Ronaldo just because he/she took the drug. This is not Atheletics.

    Drug testing standards have improved where tests can be back-dated as swhown in the olympics. Random checks could be done during games like football which can be stored for a period of 2-5 years and if a player is eventually caught, he/she and the club could be suspend or fined if the players has stopped playing.

    The idea of having to notify a non-police body of an individuals whereabouts throughout his/her sporting career is ridiculus. Whoever suggested this rule i guess is some old gizzer who is/should be in life retirement for all activities.

    How do you tell a young kid that because he/she wants to participate in a sport that their freedom of movement has to be given up for the rest of their active sporting lives? Are you attracting people to a sport or discouraging them? Everyone makes mistakes in all works of life and sports is no exception. Does this then mean that every individual living on this earth must be subject to some sort of indiscriminate policing? Its a shame that we talk down on police states in the political sphere but then we then turn our backs and do the same in sports..what hypocrites are some people.

    Test should be done, but only during competition, not during the holidays when people have time to spend with their loved ones. What the WADA oficials do during their weekends or annual holidays is not monitored by anyone so why then monitor others. A lot of people do have skeletons in their cupboards and WADA officials are no exception

  • Comment number 35.

    I sympathise with sports people, having to log your where abouts for an hour a day, seven days a week three months in advance is ridiculous. Tagged criminals get an easier ride than that! Why doesn't WADA insist on having the ability to contact all registered sports people with in the daily window, and call them when you want to do a test, you get their location and can give them the location of the nearest test site. Job done.

  • Comment number 36.

    Hi Bdyke04, I have to agree with GsyLad, after 90 minutes of intense activity (as profesional footballers tend to do) your skill level will be higher if you are not tired, if you artificially increase your fitness levels with performance enhancing drugs, at the end of a match you will be less fatigued and able to utilise your skill more readily than an honest but less fit opponent.

  • Comment number 37.

    bdyke04 - if you read my post i did acknowledge that drugs will not improve your skill levels (the donkey / thoroughbred analogy) but what it will do is reduce the fall in skill levels of the individual player during the course of the match.

    The Olympics tests were not backdated, it has just taken a long time for them to come through. The tests found CERA because the athletes thought that it was undetectable and so they had not taken precautions to ensure that it was not in their system during the Olympics. But the opportunity to catch athletes out like that again will not happen often.

    You talk about testing an punishing players 2-5 years after the event. But how does that help the team that got knocked out of the cup competition by the doped team 2-5 years before the penalties are imposed?

    Cyclists have international racing commitments throughout the season. Riders like Lance Armstrong only ride a handful of races a year but the "workers" of the team are racing 100 days a year, all over Europe, and having their race schedule changed regularly and at short notice. They manage with the whereabouts system just fine. The teams co-ordinate reports to the authorities and update them if there are any last minute changes. I am sure that Premiership teams could cope just as easily if they wanted to.

    It really boils down to whether you think that doped sportspeople is a problem or not. If you do, I cannot see how you can oppose effective measures to control doping.

 

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.