SPORTS

Greece lags in doping tests and would need assistance

GEORGE GEORGAKOPOULOS

Joseph de Pensier, Chief Executive Officer at the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organization (iNADO).

TAGS: Olympics

Greece has fallen considerably behind in doping tests, notes the Chief Executive of the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organizations (iNADO), Joseph de Pencier in an interview with Kathimerini. He goes on to issue an open call to the Greek anti-doping authority (ESKAN) to communicate and cooperate with the international representation of national authorities against doping, as this would make Greece’s battle against sports’ biggest plague both more efficient and more cost-effective.

The Canadian official also refers to a “missed opportunity” and an “overly timid” decision by the International Olympic Committee against a blanket ban on Russia from the Rio Olympics in August in the wake of the damning McLaren report by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), adding that the second McLaren report, due in mid-December, is a chance for the IOC to redeem itself.

He further says the decision to grant WADA the right to perform the anti-doping tests independently of the international sports federation needs more clarification and the system ought to be based on the NADOs’ know-how.

Why is Greece’s NADO not a member of iNADO?

iNADO has in the past attempted to contact Greek anti-doping officials in the past, directly and through the Athens accredited laboratory, but has never received any acknowledgment of our efforts. But prompted by your communication, I have renewed our efforts. iNADO would welcome Greece's national anti-doping organization with open arms. Being a Member of iNADO allows sharing of best practices, access to expertise, continuing education and many other services that lead to immediate improvements to a national anti-doping program. And considerable savings too by being able to use practices and solutions already proven by other organizations to solve ongoing issues. Anything you can do to help us establish a constructive dialogue would be most welcome.

What is Greece’s reputation in the international anti-doping circles?

I can only make my own observation, and that is that Greece's program seems to be falling behind those of many other European countries, and middle-ranked sporting countries elsewhere. For example, the 2014 WADA Testing Statistics (the most recent available) show that the Hellenic National Council for Combating Doping collected only 933 urine samples that year, about the same as much smaller countries such as Ireland, New Zealand, the French Community of Belgium, the Flanders Community of Belgium, Norway, Denmark, etc. No blood samples were collected in 2014 (which then and now are a major element of any quality doping control program). I presume there has been development since 2014 but I have no information on that. Unfortunately the ESKAN website does not have an English page.

Are you satisfied with the IOC proposal for WADA to undertake testing, independent of the federations?

The IOC has stated a good basic principle: doping control should be independent of sport promotion (the main task of IFs). But there are no real detailed proposals yet in the public domain. An informal technical group facilitated by WADA is doing that work, based on some research by PricewaterhouseCoopers that has not been made public. The devil is in the detail, as they say. We look forward to learning more.

Would this shift diminish the role of the NADOs or enhance it?

It should enhance the role of NADOs if as iNADO advocates leading NADOs are turned to for independent anti-doping services to IFs. NADOs already do the large majority of anti-doping work worldwide. Leading NADOs have the expertise and the interest in working with their IF colleagues. Relying on leading NADOs would continue to build on existing capacity and make anti-doping stronger. It would avoid a costly effort to build an entirely new organization from the ground up, one that is probably not needed and which will take lots of money and some years to be up and running properly.

Is the allegedly half-hearted response of the IOC to the WADA recommendation for banning Russia from the Olympics related to political considerations? Some people speak of a “Cold War II in sports”.

I cannot speak for the IOC. We think the IOC response was a missed opportunity. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) was much stronger and more direct. And the IPC response has withstood legal challenges in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, in the Swiss Courts and in the German Courts (where the IPC is headquartered). The IOC response seems overly timid by comparison. And that response has only prolonged the controversy and not dealt with it successfully.

Why do you think the IOC stopped short of referring to the state-sponsored doping system in Russia in its summit earlier this month?

I wish I knew. When additional evidence is released by the next McLaren Report, one hopes the IOC will reconsider its position (or lack thereof).

The first McLaren report, issued this summer, spoke of the role of RUSADA in the systematic doping of Russian athletes. How is iNADO’s relationship with RUSADA today?

RUSADA continues to be a member of iNADO. iNADO wants to see RUSADA rehabilitated and rebuilt into an effective and credible national anti-doping organization. We are currently exploring with RUSADA's management and independent experts how best to contribute to that work. Russia will never be fully-accepted back into international sport unless it has a credible national anti-doping organization. And we want Russian athletes welcomed back into all international sports, and not just tolerated.

WADA has asked for a “change of culture“ in Russia. How could that happen?

That is likely to be a complex and lengthy process. I am no expert. But as an anti-doping practitioner, I would like to see these steps at least: Russian sport authorities admit the extent of the failure to protect clean sport; full cooperation of all individuals with domestic and international investigations into state-sponsored doping in Russia (which has not happened to date); full investigation and prosecution of all Russian athletes (and their support personnel) involved the various aspects of state-sponsored doping documented by McLaren's report (and subsequent information to individual IFs); a proper whistleblower system that encourages and protects anonymous reporting of anti-doping misconduct, and proper investigation and prosecution based on those reports; independent international oversight of the rebuilding of Russian anti-doping program; all Russian athletes, support personnel and sport officials take a solemn written and verbal oath committing themselves personally to do everything possible to root out current problems and protect clean sport going forward.

Would you like to see iNADO’s role grow internationally, and if so, in what direction?

iNADO would like to grow as a professional development organization, providing training for anti-doping practitioners regardless of employer. We would like to become the professional association of all individuals who work for clean sport, not just their national organizations. We would like to become an assessor and certifier of quality anti-doping programs (and we have started this through our Quality Recognition of Sample Collection for iNADO Members).

Anti-doping always has to play catch-up with doping. How far ahead would you say that doping is nowadays?

We who fight for clean sport play by the rules. Those who cheat flout the rules. So it will always take more effort to catch dopers than it does to dope. But with more and more tools at our disposal, including better and better education and prevention programs, and cooperation with public authorities to choke off the sources of supply, and cooperation with scientific and medical researchers to understand how new medical treatments and technology might be subverted for doping, we who fight for clean sport are not far behind and in some fields ahead of the dopers.

What change would you like to see in the way doping is tackled?

Better use of technology such as paperless doping control, such as use of data to inform detection and prevention programs, such as use of mobile phone technology to enable reporting of doping through whistleblower programs.

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