WADA Symposium focuses on the rights of clean athletes

25 Mar 2015

A strong message to focus on the rights of clean athletes was delivered to more than 400 delegates at the World Anti-Doping Agency Symposium in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Drug Free Sport NZ chief executive, Graeme Steel and the organisation’s Director of Testing and Investigations, Jude Ellis, were among the international delegates at the meeting between March 24 - 26.

Day one of the annual symposium began with key note addresses from WADA Vice President Rev Dr Makhenkesi Stofile and WADA Director General, David Howman.

Ms Ellis said Mr Howman spoke about the future of drug testing in sport.

“He sent a very clear message that in future testing will focus on quality rather than quantity.  It will be ‘smart testing’ which targets the right athlete at the right time with the right type of test.”

Ms Ellis adds that WADA has developed a range of tools to assist anti-doping organisations in lifting  the quality of their testing programmes and to help mitigate costs.  

Day one also featured a panel discussion with journalists and representatives from anti-doping organisations looking at the role of the media in protecting clean athletes.

 This led to a heated exchange between German investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt and a representative from the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, which was implicated in Seppelt’s recent documentary, The Doping Secret: How Russia Creates Champions.

The second session featured an interview between Juliet Macur, a New York Times Reporter and author of a book on Lance Armstrong called “Cycle of Lies”, and Armstrong whistle blower Betsy Andreu. Andreu’s husband, Frankie Andreu, raced the Tour de France with Armstrong.  

Ms Ellis said the interview was at times emotional and provided a useful insight into how “a suburban housewife from Detroit took on the biggest fraud in the history of sport.”

Mr Steel said Ms Andreu’s tenacious and feisty personality was clearly evident and undoubtedly played a major part in her hard won battle to expose Armstrong.

The final session featured another panel discussion involving six members of the WADA Athlete Committee.

Mr Steel said the athletes were impressive and a very clear theme emerged around the need for the perspective of clean athletes to be better conveyed as opposed to stories about doping athletes.

Ms Ellis said the athletes spoke of the challenges in overcoming the “code of silence” that currently exists around doping.  

“They spoke of the need for athletes to take ownership of the (doping) problem and noted the fear of negative implications if they speak out.  Athletes need to trust their national anti-doping organisation in order to feel able to come forward with information,” Ms Ellis said.

Day two and three of the symposium focused on technical and scientific matters.  WADA Science Director, Olivier Rabin described some of the recent developments in science including the increased sensitivity in detecting some steroids. This has resulted in the re-analysis of stored samples revealing previously undetected doping, such as in the case of shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk.

Lausanne Laboratory head, Martial Saugy, gave a presentation on how science can assist in developing a targeted testing programme through the Athlete Biological Passport programme.

The President of the World Association of Anti-Doping Scientists (WAADS) Peter Van Eenoo of the Ghent Laboratory spoke about the significant developments achieved through research by WADA accredited labs and made a plea not to invest in what he called “voodoo science”. This was followed by a panel discussion focusing on how to maximise the benefits of the lab/anti-doping organisation relationship.

The symposium wrapped up with a summary of key takeouts from the day two workshop leaders. As part of this final session, Drug Free Sport NZ's Mr Steel praised the work of WADA in leading the anti-doping movement forward but cautioned against over regulation and unnecessary compliance requirements which can hamper rather than assist the effectiveness of anti-doping organisations.