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Olympic committee calls for new anti-doping body

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Russian athletes were banned from the Rio Olympics after Moscow was accused of state-organised doping © AFP/File / Franck Fife

Lausanne, Switzerland, Oct 8 – Olympic bosses on Saturday asked the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to create a new body for testing athletes and revamp the fight against drug cheating in sport.

An International Olympic Committee (IOC) summit also backed plans for the world’s top sports court to take the primary role in sanctioning athletes who are caught doping.

The two moves amount to a rebuke for international sports federations, which have had control over testing and punishment, a system the IOC says has repeatedly failed to ensure clean competition.

Overall, the high-stakes summit at a luxury hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland — at a time when the Olympic movement is grappling with one of its worst crises — agreed “to make anti-doping testing independent from sports organisations,” a statement said.

The IOC decisions will be seen as a victory for WADA after it faced what some called an existential threat after the damaging Russian doping scandal, which culminated in dozens of its competitors being barred from taking part at the Rio Olympics.

IOC president Thomas Bach at a summit on reforming the anti-doping system on October 8, 2016 in Lausanne © AFP / Fabrice Coffrini

IOC leaders had accused WADA of failing to act quickly enough on evidence that Russia was running a government-supported cheating programme in some 30 sports over several years.

It had been clear before the summit that the IOC wanted to curb the power of sports federations and overhaul doping controls through a new testing body.

Speaking after the meeting — the guest list also included international sport heavyweights such as FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Olympic chiefs from the US, Russia and China — WADA chief Craig Reedie said: “I’m very happy with it.”

The IOC recommendations “will strengthen WADA. We’re to be given substantial additional authority and substantial additional power so I’m perfectly happy with that”.

– New testing body –

The IOC statement called for “a new testing authority” to be set up “within the framework of WADA”.

It did not however specify WADA’s level of control over the new entity, though WADA will oversee the new body’s creation and maintain its own supervisory role in the global anti-doping fight.

World athletics chief Sebastian Coe (left) speaks with FIFA president Gianni Infantino on October 8, 2016 in Lausanne © AFP / Fabrice Coffrini

But the IOC stressed there will be a “clear segregation of duties” between the testing authority and WADA as the regulator.

The IOC proposals must be approved at a WADA meeting next month and by the IOC’s executive, which meets in December.

If implemented, the reforms will give WADA more power to crack down on failing national anti-doping organisations as well as more intelligence and investigative powers.

IOC leaders were frustrated that the Russian doping programme was run for years before it burst onto the public scene thanks largely to an investigation by German television.

WADA has since commissioned a bombshell report into the nefarious Russian doping scheme, led by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, with the full findings to be released in the coming weeks.

IOC President Thomas Bach said that a beefed-up WADA will need significantly more money, but that the Montreal-based anti-doping agency will first need to show it has a plan for handling its new powers.

“It is up to WADA to now discuss the implementation of these reforms, which ones are implemented, to which degree they are implemented and then to present a budget,” Bach told reporters after the summit.

If WADA embraces its new role “100 percent… it would mean a substantial increase in financing,” Bach said.

– Court to punish dopers –

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) already plays a prominent role in sanctioning dopers by hearing the appeals of athletes sanctioned by their sports federations.

But Bach argued that a system where the court made the first decision on punishments would increase transparency and consistency.

He noted that CAS made all doping-related rulings at this summer’s Rio Olympics and that none of those decisions had been appealed, indicating the court’s authority was widely respected.

Aside from the Russia scandal, which overshadowed the Rio Games and allegedly had links to the Moscow sports ministry, Kenya’s track and field programme was revealed to be riddled with cheaters, while various other doping revelations cast doubt on the integrity of competition at the Games.

The IOC said it would continue to strive “for a more robust, more efficient, more transparent and more harmonised WADA anti-doping system”.

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