International Olympic Council President Thomas Bach announced an IOC commitment of $10 million to support a four-point action plan aimed at strengthening the fight against doping. The new IOC strategy to combat the menace of doping will also include tougher sanctions against “entourage” members to cleanse the sport.
Bach has also encouraged all stakeholders in the fight against doping to “join hand to send a strong signal of determination, cooperation and credibility to the athletes of the world and general public”.
The IOC president was addressing 1,500 delegates at the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Fifth World Conference on Doping in Sport in Katowice, Poland. He also introduced a global long-term storage and re-analysis programme extended to samples collected during the pre-Games testing period.
“To make this step possible, the IOC is ready to finance the necessary storage facilities for the International Federations and National Anti-Doping Organisations for the tens of thousands of samples collected during the pre-Games testing period,” the IOC chief said.
“Based on our experience with the storage, this represents a commitment by the IOC of about $5 million,” the IOC official website has reported Bach as saying.
GENETIC SEQUENCING ANTI-DOPING TEST
To take advantage of the most extensive pre-Games testing programme ever, which will “maximise both detection and deterrence”, the IOC President HAS asked the International Testing Agency (ITA), which is coordinating this effort, “to collect the appropriate samples to be analysed by the new genetic sequencing method as early as the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, regardless of whether this testing method is already fully validated or not”.
“In the latter case, the IOC would analyse these samples after the full validation of this new testing method,” he added.
FUNDS FOR FURTHER SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH
Building on the success of the last research programme, supported by the IOC’s $10 million fund to develop innovative anti-doping testing and detection methods, President Bach announced “an additional commitment of $2.5 million to bring some of these projects to fruition”.
“If the governments would like to match this amount, we would be pleased to transfer these $2.5 million from the budget of the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission to the WADA research budget,” he said.
MORE MUSCLE TO WADA
Praising the “great progress of WADA’s Intelligence and Investigative Unit since its creation in 2016”, Bach has also recalled that “the challenges of doping have unfortunately become more complex”.
“In view of this the Olympic and sports movement and the government authorities should discuss how to strengthen the WADA Intelligence and Investigative Unit,” he added
“We invite the governments to a discussion on how we can do so. For such a joint programme, the IOC would then commit another USD 2.5 million for the next Olympiad.”
MORE FOCUS ON THE ATHLETES’ ENTOURAGE
In addition to this new plan, the IOC President insisted on the need for better cooperation with governments when it comes to identifying and sanctioning those in the athletes’ entourage involved in doping cases.
“We need zero tolerance for everybody: athletes AND entourage,” said Bach. “By putting the focus more on the entourage, by holding everybody implicated in a doping case accountable in a robust and deterrent way, and by close cooperation between all anti-doping stakeholders, we can take a major step forward to strengthen justice and credibility for the protection of the clean athletes and to drain the doping swamp.
“The challenges in the protection of the clean athletes can only be addressed in a relationship of mutual trust between governments and the sporting movement. They have the necessary authority and tools to take action. Therefore, I extend my hand to the governments for such a trustful partnership.”
IOC’s FIGHT AGAINST DOPING
President Bach also outlined the increased support from the IOC to anti-doping since the last WADA World Conference in Johannesburg in 2013. He particularly highlighted the importance of setting up the International Testing Agency (ITA).
“Since we met last time in Johannesburg, the IOC has taken some more important initiatives. One of the major milestones was the initiation of the International Testing Agency by the Olympic Summit in 2015,” said Bach. “The creation of the ITA was made possible by start-up funding of USD 30 million from the IOC. The overarching goal of the ITA is to make anti-doping testing independent from sports organisations. In today’s world, where perception is unfortunately so often becoming reality, it is more important than ever to avoid even the perception of a conflict of interest.
“We have also increased our financial support to WADA. Together with the governments, we have approved a 47 per cent cumulative budget increase from about USD 30 million in 2017 to about USD 44 million in 2022.”
He also noted that the substantial increased spending on WADA was only part of the spending by the sports movement on the fight against doping.
LEVEL PLAYING FIELD FOR INTERNATIONAL ATHLETES
Bach also highlighted the importance for the global anti-doping community of creating an international level playing field for all athletes. “This is an overriding priority,” he said. “The same principle of a level playing field for national and international athletes must apply to any kind of legislation or rules in any country. There can be no different standards.
“To achieve this, the work starts at home. That means that there must be a level playing field for all athletes on a national level as well.”
He encouraged WADA “to look into this matter and to make it part of their compliance monitoring.
This is to ensure that also on the national level, all elite athletes, irrespective of the sports organisation, colleges and universities, commercial entity or professional league they belong to, are all subject to the World Anti-Doping Code and their respective NADO,” he said.
PROMOTION OF ATHLETES’ REPRESENTATION
Following up on the IOC’s commitment to strengthen its support to WADA by making proposals on improving its governance, President Bach reminded those present that “the IOC made the representation of athletes in the WADA decision-making bodies possible by giving up seats of the sports movement in favour of democratically elected athletes’ representatives”.
Anticipating the election of WADA’s new President and Vice-President to take place on 7 November in Katowice, the President welcomed the increased athletes’ representation in WADA, a long-standing and major focus for the IOC.
“The IOC fully supports incoming WADA President Witold Bańka, as a former athlete, and Yang Yang, an Olympic champion put forward as WADA Vice-President. Taken together with the existing athletes’ representation on the WADA decision-making bodies, this puts the athletes in the driver’s seat of WADA,” Bach said.
“The IOC continues to fully support this positive development.”
The 2019 World Conference on Doping in Sport from November 5 to 7, is the fifth of its kind, with the leading stakeholders in the worldwide anti-doping community in attendance. This edition coincides with the 20th anniversary of the agency.
The WADA Executive Committee and the WADA Foundation Board are scheduled to approve respectively the revised International Standards and World Anti-Doping Code on 7 November.
On the same day, the Board will elect a new president and vice-president, who will take up their roles on January 1. The candidate to replace Sir Craig Reedie in the president’s office is Poland’s Minister of Sport and Tourism and former elite 400m runner, Witold Bańka, while China’s double Olympic gold-medal winning short-track speed skater, Yang Yang, is the vice-presidential candidate to replace Linda Helleland of Norway.