IAAF says anti-doping tests fair
BRUSSELS -- The track and field governing body would like tougher rules on out-of-competition drug tests, flatly rejecting demands for a holiday break from doping controls for top athletes.
Backing the World Anti-Doping Agency in its standoff with scores of athletes across the globe, the IAAF said Thursday the requirement for top performers to give advance notice of their location for one hour every day is the least they can do to keep their sport free of cheating.
The International Association of Athletics Federations said in a statement the testing system for all sports that started on Jan. 1 "is both proportionately fair as well as absolutely mandatory for the effective fight against doping."
It added that the rule that punishes athletes who miss three tests in an 18-month period is too lenient, because it gives them the leeway to freely dope until they have two missed tests.
"The IAAF is not happy that this ability exists," the federation said. "This ability to 'miss' three tests is in place as a safety net to protect the clean athletes and is already a compromise."
A number of athletes have called for looser rules in recent weeks, arguing an invasion of privacy. In Belgium, 65 athletes have already opened proceedings before the nation's highest court.
UEFA and FIFA have also demanded that soccer players be given a holiday break once a year from the tight WADA "whereabouts" regimen. The IAAF rejected the suggestion as going against the essence of the fight against doping.
"Any serious anti-doping program cannot even begin to suggest that athletes could have many weeks [let alone days] away, free in the knowledge they cannot be tested," the IAAF said.
"If you are going to ask clean athletes to make an effort to provide whereabouts, then you need to make sure that this system does not allow cheating athletes to have four-week holidays where they are certain they won't ever be tested."
Several athletes, including world indoor champion hurdler Lolo Jones, have said they would prefer an electronic homing device or a GSM or GPS tracker to monitor their whereabouts. The IAAF said, however, that it would be too much of a burden on the testers themselves, of whom there are too few to chase all athletes around the globe at short notice.
"In general, testing needs to be planned at least a day in advance," the IAAF statement said. "Intelligent testing also needs to be planned around future competition schedules and training cycles, something a GPS system cannot tell you."
The athletes' whereabouts information is registered online and can be updated by e-mail or text message. The IAAF noted that it has been requiring athletes to report similar information since 1997.
"It is interesting to see wealthy athletes in some sports complain about the requirements, while IAAF athletes in the middle of Kenya [as an example] have been finding a way to cope with the challenges for years with the assistance of their managers and support network," the federation said.
Two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva was among several elite athletes who have criticized the WADA system as unfair and overly intrusive.
The IAAF said, however, a majority of athletes were firmly behind the rules.
"It is a price which I'm willing to pay for being a top athlete," world high jump champion Blanka Vlasic said.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press