Thorhild Widvey is the Norwegian Minister of Culture, and a member of the WADA Executive Committee. WADA recently caught up with Mrs. Widvey to discover more about her country’s passion for clean sport. (Photo: Ilja C. Hendel)
You have been Minister of Culture since 2013 – is this an area you have always been passionate about?
TW: I am a person who is enthusiastic about various activities. As a child and youth I participated in several sports, and I sang and conducted a choir.
As the Norwegian Minister of Culture, I have the honour to meet great performers and artists, both from the world of sport, and from the world of art and music of all genres. I find this a tremendous inspiration.
Fair play and clean sport is of the utmost importance in all performances. In the fight for doping-free sport and for the clean athletes I am indeed passionate. I firmly support the principle that all athletes have a fundamental right to fair play and the right to participate in clean sport. We all have a common responsibility to achieve this.
What do you believe are the main challenges for sport within this new chapter for anti-doping?
TW: While Intelligence & Investigation work is an area that has typically been dealt with by bodies such as the Police, there is now a requirement and expectation that anti-doping organisations should also deal with intelligence & investigation work in addition to testing.
I believe this is a new and unknown area for many anti-doping organisations, which represents a challenge. Taking the nature of this kind of activity into consideration, it has become more apparent than ever that bodies responsible for intelligence, investigation, testing and prosecution need to be driven independently from sports federations, in order to avoid any possible conflicts of interest.
Were there any particular changes to the Code you felt strongly about?
TW: I consider the Code now to be more fair in terms of how athletes are being sanctioned, as intentional doping warrants a four-year ban, whilst inadvertent doping will be dealt with in a more flexible way than it was previously. I am also pleased to see that the revised Code emphasises a respect for fundamental human rights and sanction proportionality.
It is also my understanding that WADA wishes to strengthen its monitoring role, which I believe is crucial for the effectiveness and efficiency of anti-doping organisations to ensure their compliance with the Code. Our common aim is to ensure that clean athletes are able to compete on a level playing field. I believe that tools such as the Technical Document for Sport Specific Analysis (TDSSA) and the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) will help to achieve this goal.
WADA being a 50/50 split between sport and government – where does government need to focus its energies?
TW: As Governments, we focus our attention especially on the commitments we are bound to through the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport and the Council of Europe Anti-Doping Convention. Through these conventions, therefore, governments are obliged to support and enable their NADOs to fulfil their obligations. In this regard, I believe it if of the utmost importance that governments put emphasis on the implementation of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code.
WADA has in the past talked of the need for governments to introduce legislation making the distribution and trafficking of banned substances and illegal activity (as is highlighted in the UNESCO Convention) and of the need for governments to implement legislation that allows Anti-Doping Organisations to share information with law enforcement – where does Norway and its NADO stand on this?
TW: The Council of Europe Anti-Doping Convention from 1989 states that Parties shall adopt legislation to restrict availability of doping substances. Trafficking of doping substances has been illegal in Norway since 1993. Further, it was a significant milestone when a new law came into force on 1 July 2013 also making the use and possession of doping substances illegal.
I know that Anti-Doping Norway put three cases forward to the anti-doping judicial panel in 2014 based on non-analytical findings (import of prohibited substances). This was the result of information sharing with the police. Anti-Doping Norway’s formal agreements with the both the Police and Customs authorities have contributed in strengthening this kind of collaboration. From an international perspective, I believe it is of crucial importance to inform and advise national authorities on how this work can be developed further to its full potential.
Supplements are another ‘hot’ topic in anti-doping – what is Norway doing to deal with ''the supplement issue''?
TW: We have clear legislation regarding supplements in Norway. Supplements are considered as a food product and are regulated by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.
I do realise, however, that certain supplements may be contaminated. This, of course, is a considerable problem. It is important that we raise awareness and continue to improve the monitoring mechanisms for food supplements. We all have challenges in this area that need to be addressed. I know that Anti-Doping Norway is putting strong efforts on the supplement issue, also from a public health perspective.
Norway is often cited as an anti-doping leader, not least through the anti-doping partnerships it has struck with the likes of China, Russia and Kenya – how important are these partnerships to Norway’s clean sport standing?
TW: When it comes to anti-doping efforts and the fight for fair play and the clean athlete, one must not only focus on national activities. International collaborations and international partnerships are of great value. This has been the Norwegian philosophy for the past 20-25 years.
With a well developed national anti-doping organisation, Norway has a responsibility and a strong wish to assist other sporting nations to develop efficient national anti-doping organisations and programs. Norway has contributed with both guidance and advice to several nations in this respect. I would like to underline that WADA’s involvement and contribution in these partnerships has been crucial to their success.
In the 2013 Testing Results, Norway’s Adverse Analytical Findings equalled 1.3% of all its athletes tested – is this a true reflection of the level of doping in Norway?
TW: All the top level athletes originally come from smaller, local environments. That is one reason why Norway, through its anti-doping program, needs to reach out to local training environments in order to enable athletes to adopt the right attitude against doping, by educating them.
We cannot focus on the number of positive tests alone. It is hard to say whether the percentage mentioned is a true reflection of the prevalence of doping in Norway. The World Anti-Doping Code requires Anti-Doping Organisations to carry out target testing. In order to do so, and to follow-up on our top level athletes closely, we need sufficient samples from these athletes to maintain appropriate profiles for each of them. The profile methodology implies that a number of samples are not collected necessarily from a detection perspective. We need to take this into account when discussing percentage of positive samples.