WADA Under International Fire

Story written by EPelle

WADA, suffering an apparent international rebellion by international sports officials over the current anti-drug enforcement system - one which is regarded by critics as harsh and inflexible, has been called upon to havemajor rules revisions, according to documents released Monday.

The Los Angeles Times reported today that among the international sports officials' main concerns is WADA's stance on trace amounts of banned substances which provide the same consequence as intentional drug use - cases which, the LA Times states, often impose identical penalties in either case (source).

The current system, the LA Times quotes, is "far too oversimplified" and can lead to "absurd" results according to the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations. WADA is being pressed to give anti-doping enforcement authorities around the world more flexibility and autonomy to reduce sanctions — or impose none at all — as they see fit on specific athlete cases where drug violations are found to be accidental or trivial.

The comments from agencies ranging from the International Olympic Committee and other agencies - including world-wide athletics national governing bodies - were solicited by WADA and collected over a six-month period as part of a checks-and-balances review process for the World Anti-doping Code, which was first implemented four years ago.

WADA officials have portrayed a united front in both its goals for drug-free competition and its enforcement methods, and it is not known how much influence the criticisms and proposed changes made by the officials would have on revised Anti-doping Code language when it is submitted for approval by the 36-member WADA board at WADA's annual meeting, World Conference on Doping in Sport, 15-17 November in Madrid.

Among the most harsher points brought up in the documents, sports officials have criticized WADA for two main issues: punishing athletes on the basis of unreliable lab tests and WADA's principle of "strict liability," whereby athletes are sanctioned for drugs violations when banned substances in an athlete's blood or urine sample are found at trace-amount levels.

"It does not seem fair that athletes who 'innocently' transgress the rules, strict liability notwithstanding, receive the same penalty as those who have purposely set out to cheat," stated David Gerrard, New Zealand's anti-doping agency chairman.

One area which has been of great concern to athletics is the three Carl Lewis "positive" tests from the USA Olympic Trials in 1988.

Pound, though not having been mentioned by name, was understood as having been criticized in the international documents for appearing prejudgiced of accused athletes who were awaiting pending appeals processes for their cases.

American Marion Jones was not mentioned, however, nor was her EPO test which Pound stated he would have re-analysed to the extent that he nearly crossed a line in calling the UCLA laboratory negligent for not calling the "B"-sample reading positive. Pound has been critical of Jones since her alleged involvement with BALCO - making it a mission to bring her to some sort of justice in the fight against dopers.

The LA Times wrote today that the WADA code has set strict-liability relief standards which are virtually impossible to meet according to sports officials.

One problematic area which is certain to come under fire is the degree which countries should be allowed to call a trace-amount positive and malfeasance, and when one has inadvertantly tested positive.

Pound considers the 1988 Carl Lewis three positive tests anti-doping violations, and has stated that Lewis' participation in Seoul was illegal.

United States officials took action into its own hands in 1988 when Lewis stated to them he had taken cold medication which later was found to contain a banned substance, causing him to test positive on three separate occasions before he competed in the Summer Olympics.

Lewis, who did not inform anti-doping officers of the substances found in his medication - violating a rule already set in place, was found to have born little or no fault/no negligence when trace amounts of banned substances where found in his system on three separate occasions - substances, he claimed, were from taking cold medications.

Pound has made no secret that he believes the USA is involved in cover-ups, especially when it comes to Lewis having tested positive for low levels of drugs found in the Sudafed he stated he had taken, and subsequently being permitted to participate in the 1988 Olympics, nonethless.

Pound, engaging the United States directly – one of his biggest targets in the fight against doping due to what can be perceived as cover-ups, sounded off in a New York Times article, stating:

“There aren’t too many people who are prepared to point the finger at America and say: ‘Hey, take off the [expletive] halo. You’re just like everybody else.’ That’s a problem in America. America has a singular ability to delude itself.” (blog link).

WADA has a load of issues to consider as it attempts to shore up its anti-doping efforts around the globe in an attempt to unify organisations' strategies and stances to combat doping - inadvertant or not.

Should they be oberseved as seriously taking into consideration measures and efforts to unify the world agencies' request without diluting the purpose for which WADA has been created, sports officials and atheltes may put more faith into the processes and procedures WADA has on the table, and will perhaps buy into a system which may seem fairer and more just than the current model.

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