Anti-doping programs fall short
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Two upcoming Olympic hosts, Russia and Brazil, have anti-doping programs that don't meet international standards -- a concern to leaders in the drug-fighting movement and the International Olympic Committee, which touts clean competition as one of its top priorities.
Russia, which hosts the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, and Brazil, the 2016 Summer Games host in Rio de Janeiro, have both been cited by the World Anti-Doping Agency as having sub-par anti-doping programs.
"It is a concern in the general fight against doping that such big countries do not have the adequate anti-doping programs in place in the year of 2010," said Arne Ljungqvist, the IOC medical commission chairman and a member of WADA. "The anti-doping fight has been going on for 40 years so it's a little worrying that big countries like those are still not there."
Neither country sent a representative to this week's meeting of the Association of National Anti-Doping Organizations -- absences that did not go unnoticed during the two-day session devoted to sharing ways to improving anti-doping operations around the world.
It is a concern in the general fight against doping that such big countries do not have the adequate anti-doping programs in place in the year of 2010. The anti-doping fight has been going on for 40 years so it's a little worrying that big countries like those are still not there.” -- IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist on the anti-doping programs in Russia and Brazil.
"If you're serious about developing an effective program, why wouldn't you take advantage of this, when you've got a lot of people here who are more than happy to help you?" said Graeme Steel, the president of ANADO. "It's disappointing. We'd like to help. There's an offer on the table. It doesn't cost us a lot."
Russia, which had biathletes and cross-country skiers banned for doping before the Vancouver Olympics, has been called out by WADA and IOC leaders as having a weak program in need of fast improvement. Russia created an independent anti-doping agency in 2008, though its true independence from the Olympic committee and government has been questioned.
The new CEO of the Russian Olympic Committee, Marat Bariev, did not immediately respond to questions e-mailed to him by The Associated Press.
Last month, deputy prime minister Alexander Zhukov called the fight against doping "a major priority."
"Sochi 2014 has given Russia a strong determination to show zero tolerance," Zhukov said.
Brazil, which has recently had a handful of athletes in summer sports caught for doping, still runs its anti-doping program out of its Olympic committee -- a practice that does not follow international standards because of potential conflict of interest.
"The creation of an independent anti-doping agency before the 2016 Olympics must be a priority and it is up to the government, through its ministry of sports, to establish this priority," said Eduardo de Rose, head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee's anti-doping department.
De Rose said Brazil didn't send anyone to the meeting in Colorado Springs this week because "without an independent anti-doping agency, it makes no sense to send a representative."
IOC president Jacques Rogge has been among those calling on Russia to beef up its anti-doping program. Despite this, and despite Brazil's problems, both countries have been given the IOC's greatest honor -- the right to host the Olympics. Ljungqvist said he'd like to see the IOC give more weight to the strength of a country's anti-doping program when awarding future games.
"From now, this matter will be a main point when evaluating the candidatures, this has been introduced as a new element in the bid process," he said. "That is a lesson we have learned from the past."
Other countries on WADA's long list of noncompliant anti-doping programs include Turkey and Nigeria. Jamaica was recently taken off the list after reconstructing the board of directors of its anti-doping commission in an attempt to eliminate conflicts of interest. But questions persist about the effectiveness of the country's program -- important given Jamaica's dominance in track events.
"It's an effective body," WADA general director David Howman said in an interview last month. "The issue is, are they running a program that's effective? We're trying to help them do that. We want them to work alongside other anti-doping agencies so they can get experience."
Among its many reform efforts, Russia has been working with Norway to establish better anti-doping protocols, including an agreement that allows agents from one country to test athletes from the other. One of Russia's problems is the size of the country -- it spans nine time zones -- and the difficulty of monitoring athletes who are spread across the land.
"They are trying to get better and they are making fast improvements," said Anders Solheim, CEO of Norway's anti-doping program.
The international skiing federation has sanctioned Russia for a number of problems and is expected to update the country's progress Saturday.
Much like Russia's program, Brazil's is rife with internal and external politics. Attention was paid to the anti-doping efforts during President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's administration. Experts are waiting to see how Presdient-elect Dilma Rousseff, who takes office Jan. 1, responds to the challenges, especially given her country's growing sports profile. Two years before the Olympics, Brazil will host the World Cup.
"I feel confident they will have it in place well before the games," Ljungqvist said of an independent program. "But, again, what surprises me a little is that such a big country has not that much of an anti-doping program."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press