10 July 2011

Harnessing law enforcement in the fight against doping

WADA took an important step in the fight against doping in sport when it released at its Foundation Board Meeting in May guidelines designed to enhance cooperation between Anti-Doping Organizations (ADOs) and law enforcement agencies around the world.

‘Coordinating Investigations and Sharing Anti-Doping Information and Evidence’ is a detailed document that will lead to a more concerted effort in the fight against doping in sport by allowing different organizations to pool their intelligence and share their expertise.

“We have been saying for some time now that the battle against doping cheats cannot be fought only in laboratories across the world, and that we need a more collaborative approach to the problem,” said WADA Director General David Howman.

“Based on experience gained, evidence gathered, and lessons learned in the first 10 years of WADA, it is the Agency’s firm view that Anti-Doping Organizations (ADOs) need to move beyond drug-testing alone and develop additional ways to gain information about the use and supply of prohibited substances.

“After all, it’s not only the athletes who are involved in doping – members of the athletes’ entourage may also be involved, as well as the many upstream perpetrators in charge of the supply and trafficking of substances.”

The WADA document is the result of a series of symposia hosted by the anti-doping organizations in the USA, Australia and UK over the last few years to establish a way forward for the sharing of intelligence.

It is not a model of best practice, and nor has it been proposed by WADA for it to become a formal part of the world anti-doping program.  It does, however, give advice on how best to establish key relationships with different authorities, and offers ample proof on the effectiveness of previous investigations into doping by law enforcement agencies.

Examples include the investigation by French customs and police into the Festina cycling team at the 1998 Tour de France; the enquiry by US law enforcement agencies into the BALCO laboratory and its president Victor Conte; the raid by Italian police at the 2006 Turin Olympics which seized doping materials from the rooms of the Austrian ski team; and the multi-agency cooperation across the US-Canada border that led to the indictment of Dr Anthony Galea in 2010.

The document also acknowledges the challenges faced by ADOs. It highlights the need for evidence gathering in relation to non-analytical rule violations, and the problem of ‘upstream perpetrators’ who mostly fall outside sport’s jurisdiction.

As well as harnessing the powers of public authorities in a bid to overcome these challenges, the document advises ADOs on how best to ensure that appropriate anti-doping laws exist within their countries, and that those laws encompass all the relevant doping substances.

Furthermore, it advises on how to incentivize robust enforcement of national laws and regulations, and highlights the potential need to remove legal obstacles to the sharing of information between ADOs and public authorities.

“Intelligence gathering is crucial if we are to take the fight against doping on to a new level, and already a number of ADOs already have their own intelligence units in place,” added Mr. Howman.

“These  guidelines will help other adopt a similar approach, so that we can develop non-analytical strategies to go alongside the more traditional testing programs that WADA has helped put in place over the last decade.

“Testing and intelligence gathering will become more and more interdependent over the next few years, and will make life much tougher for those who continue to cheat.”