fredag 30 januari 2009

."I would not want to say that any sport has been untouched by doping,''

WADA seeks special meeting
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -The World Anti-Doping Agency has invited athletes' groups for a meeting to defend the whereabouts rule for out-of-competition drug testing, a statute that has drawn increasing criticism and a court challenge.
Tennis star Rafael Nadal became the most outspoken critic of the system this week, insisting that forcing top athletes to be available one hour a day for testing amounted to intolerable harassment. In Belgium, 65 athletes even filed a court challenge.WADA director general David Howman said the new system is actually an improvement and should make life easier on athletes instead of turning them into victims of round-the-clock doping supervision. He said athletes should study the rules themselves. And if that is not sufficient, "give me a call, or come to one of the meetings. Find out something more before you open your mouth,'' Howman told the Associated Press on Thursday in a telephone interview from Montreal."There are things that need to be learned, we appreciate that,'' Howman added. "But make sure you learn all the information before you criticize it.''On Wednesday, Howman sent out invitations to several athletes' groups, representing thousands of elite competitors, to come together and together go over the new rules, which kicked in this year.Under the latest WADA code, athletes must specify one hour each day when and where they can be located for testing. Athletes must also tell anti-doping authorities where they will be over the next three months, but they can update this by e-mail or phone message at short notice if it changes."To have to send a message or be concerned all day long if there is a last-minute change seems to me to be totally excessive,'' Nadal said in a New York Times article.The Belgian athletes claim the rule is an invasion of privacy, building their court challenge on the fundamental right to privacy. Howman said that all through the rule-making process, WADA took special care not to make the measures excessive."We took legal advice to make sure that all the provisions were obeying the laws of proportionality,'' he said. Howman insisted, however, that efficient out-of-competition testing is a cornerstone of anti-doping controls. To catch cheats, short-notice tests are essential since many illegal substances can become untraceable within 24 hours. To perform such tests, WADA needs to know at all times where and when athletes can be traced.Under the rules, three missed tests or three warnings for failing to file whereabouts information within an 18-month period constitute a doping violation and can lead to athletes being banned. Some athletes complain they cannot go to the movies as they please or unexpectedly go out for breakfast without proper warning. Howman insists everything is possible with a certain amount of planning."The system is far more flexible than they lead to believe,'' Howman said. If they do not take time or effort to apply anti-doping rules "they are not being responsible either to their sport or to the other players they are competing with.''The fear is that if the challenge of the Belgian athletes is successful, it could undermine the work of WADA as a precedent.The Belgians and Nadal complained that sports with a perceived minimal history of doping were targeted as much as those where doping among the top stars has proved rife."I would not want to say that any sport has been untouched by doping,'' Howman said.

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