Lausanne, Switzerland, Oct 13 – The International Olympic Committee has acted to curb the power of sports federations and overhaul doping controls in a revamped fight against drugs cheating, but the road to reform promises to be long and complex.
What has the IOC decided and why?
In the wake of the state-sponsored doping scandal in Russia that surfaced in the run-up to the Rio Olympics, the IOC on Saturday announced its plans for a two-pronged reform: testing and sanctions.
The IOC asked the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to create a new body for testing athletes.
It also backed plans for the world’s top sports court, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, to take the primary role in sanctioning athletes who are caught doping.
Accused of having reacted late to the doping problem that has plagued Russia, WADA – victim of a hacking attack that has seen athletes’ personal medical records released – is fixed firmly in the IOC’s crosshairs.
The IOC says WADA must “strengthen its governance structure” and “significantly improve its information security standards”.
What are the consequences?
International sports federations accept losing their power to test and sanction their athletes.
“That aims to create a better system in regulating doping under the aegis of WADA,” said Jean-Loup Chappelet, a Swiss university professor who specialises in the Olympic movement and who was approached by WADA for his input on reform.
“The reforms also provide for the establishment of a certification of national anti-doping agencies and big testing laboratories,” Chappelet told AFP.
But that raises questions. The four big Olympic federations (athletics, football, gymnastics and swimming) were all present for Saturday’s meeting in Lausanne and have approved the reforms. But for some other federations, the reforms are more problematic.
“Who decides who is to be tested? To establish lists of targeted athletes, you need the knowledge only the federations possess,” said one federation official on the condition of anonymity.
“Who takes charge of the samples? This unique structure or a third party as is often the case today? And what laboratory carries out the tests?”
CAS, the sole judge?
The federation official also questioned the “true independence” of CAS, which will become the sole arbiter in matters of doping.
“We will very clearly separate the trial and appeal structures,” responded CAS secretary-general Matthieu Reeb. “The judges and trial officials will not hear appeals.”
For athletes and different parties, “it will simplify and harmonise procedures”.
“And if we work well at the trial stage, there’ll maybe be fewer appeals,” said Reeb, adding that “it will need at least a year to put this reform in place”.
Olivier Niggli, director-general of WADA, said the important thing was “to be in agreement on an agenda and a process”.
But “we have a lot of work to do. We’ll have to sit back down around the table because certain reforms will have to be discussed more before and other proposals will come perhaps by November”, Niggli told AFP.
A steering committee which has been working for a year on these reforms will again meet to fine-tune the proposals which will be presented at the WADA Foundation Board meeting on November 20 in Glasgow.
Chappelet believes WADA must at least establish the new supervisory body from that date, recommending that the new structures be based upon the “Intelligence and Investigation” division WADA set up a few months ago.
“Additional testing should be targeted based on information and any disclosures by whistleblowers, who must be strongly protected by the independence of this new unit.”
Who finances the reforms?
Two avenues exist for financing: either fresh resources or a recalibration of the current budgets of bodies involved in testing and sanctions.
WADA has an annual budget of 30 million dollars (27 million euros). The IOC pays half of WADA’s budget, the other half coming from governments.
The IOC said it was “ready to contribute to an increased financing along with its partners, the governments”.
“The increase in financing depends on the implementation of the reforms by WADA and is based on the results provided by WADA after the review of the anti-doping system.”