October 15, 2015
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Speech by WADA Director General, David Howman, Challenges to the Integrity of Sport, Melbourne

Melbourne, 15 October 2015

It is a privilege to address this very important conference, but also a personal pleasure to return to ANZSLA on its twenty fifth anniversary, and to be able to partake in the celebrations.

One of the big dangers facing sport today is the loss of integrity that comes from doping. There are many other challenges to the integrity of sport and I will address those also this morning.

Turning first to doping. Doping undermines the values of sport. The intrinsic values of sport, often referred to as “the spirit of sport” is the celebration of the human spirit, body and mind, and is characterized by values such as ethics, honesty, respect for rules, self-respect and respect for others, fair play and healthy competition. If sport is void of these values (and others) it might be argued it is no longer sport.

I want to take the opportunity of addressing issues that challenge those values and the integrity of sport by first looking at the experiences WADA has had in its fifteen years of operation.

As WADA has communicated many times, doping is no longer an issue that is confined within elite sporting boundaries. Rather, it is a problem that permeates other areas of our society, and has a much wider impact than it did several decades ago when it first became a major challenge for sport.

Societal issue

WADA provides the pointy end of the sport issue with its focus on elite athletes but, when the curtain is drawn, what is revealed is a social problem of steroids in schools and amongst our security forces; the presence of the criminal underworld in trafficking prohibited substances; an unregulated supply of non-sanitized drugs through the internet and from profit-making opportunists (including many in local gyms); amateur athletes doping in recreational sports events; young people taking steroids in a bid to look good; and, an overall challenge to the values of sport and its integrity through allied activities such as spot- or match-fixing, bribery and corruption. None of these matters really fall under WADA’s express mandate of elite sport, but evidence of all have come to our attention, and all provide significant issues for society in general.

In the public health area internationally, there is often very little regulation over “kitchen laboratories”, minimum scrutiny and control of imported raw materials, and therefore, not much attention to the growing use of steroids. It is almost as if there is an acceptance of the burgeoning use, as there is increased use of the drugs that provide the “fountain of youth” and which are prescribed regularly by wellness clinics. Peptides, growth hormones, testosterone are becoming more common place and who is noticing, yet alone regulating? And what is the effect or impact on elite sport?

First, a quick view of where WADA is at present:

Formed in 1999, WADA has grown into a well-recognized international agency, responsible first for harmonizing all the many variegated rules and regulations from sport and countries into a global Code and revising it twice already; second for uniting sport (private) with governments (public authorities) in a unique partnership; and third, for becoming an independent hybrid body that has a very high collection of annual dues from governments (better than United Nations bodies), close to 100% annually.

Sometimes we forget how unique WADA is on the international sport and political stage and how the achievement of harmonizing rules is very rarely done globally.

The World Anti-Doping Code was initially drafted and unanimously accepted in 2003. It was reviewed and revised in 2007 (2009 Code) and again in 2013 (2015 Code).

There are more than 660 signatories to the Code, while 182 of a possible 195 countries have ratified UNESCO’s International Convention against Doping in Sport, with 6 countries ratifying in 2015 to date.

The second compliance report on the Code and its adherence by WADA’s stakeholders was approved by our Foundation Board on November 20, 2011 and a new compliance program is under way now.

WADA’s Regional Anti-Doping Organization Program – better known as the RADO Program – now encompasses 123 countries within 15 RADOs, that prior to the Agency being formed, were not even familiar with the words “anti-doping”.

WADA has invested more than US$ 70 million in scientific research, forged partnerships with Interpol and the World Customs Organization, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations and the Biotechnology Industry Organization, written models of best practice, provided education models for schools, appealed many cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and more.

When you consider the size of the problem faced by WADA, the limited budget at our disposal and the difficulties inherent with uniting disparate bodies and countries, and attempting to enhance anti-doping practice, it should not be doubted that WADA has achieved much.

Advances in anti-doping

We all should know by now that the fight against doping in sport has reached the stage where science alone will not eradicate cheating or very often even detect it.

This is not a secret - it is a worrying trend. The reality is that the scientific expertise of those who choose to dope – many of whom are assisted by an entourage with increasing scientific and medical expertise designed solely to cheat and avoid detection - is often able to keep ahead of the science of the anti-doping community or at least the practical application of science in the accredited laboratories when analyzing collected samples which of course the laboratories did not collect, nor select for collection.

The clever cheating athlete on the other hand is becoming better at cheating, more sophisticated and funded more extensively. Look at the money now to be made in sport, most reasonably good footballers in the Premier League earn more than WADA’s annual budget – one player! That clever cheating athlete might now be confident in the view that he or she will avoid detection under the historical approach.

Detection has got better in the last decade, of that there is no doubt, but do not forget the extent to which people will take risks to achieve financial gain and personal glory.

Tyler Hamilton wrote in his book, The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France, that he and his team-mates felt they had a 99% chance of avoiding detection so long as they followed the simple rules laid down by their unscrupulous support staff.

A direct quote from the book sheds some light on this: “The test for EPO is a good example of how big an advantage (Michele) Ferrari (physician and trainer) was to us. It took the drug-testing authorities several years and millions of dollars to develop a test to detect EPO in urine and blood. It took Ferrari about five minutes to evade it. His solution was dazzlingly simple….”

Even if what Hamilton describes is no longer the case, and detection methods have improved, the dopers have figured out new ways of avoiding detection: micro-dosing, cocktails, designer drugs, super hydrating, transfusions and more.

What has become more telling, however, is that the mode of collection of evidence need not simply nor solely be through sample collection and analysis of blood and urine.

Already we have moved far from being reliant only on such processes - perhaps to the discomfort and concern of many - but to successfully gather evidence against those who have cheated with impunity.

Non-analytical cases are mounting, from the days of BALCO and Tim Montgomery, to regular cases around the world where the authorities now exchange data on a growing basis, and gather evidence to proceed with “non analytical” cases.

One only has to remind people that Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones competed for many years, were tested many times and were never found to have an adverse analytical finding yet cheated throughout.  

Jones specifically wrote in her book that she had not taken drugs and sued those who suggested she cheated. It was only during the investigation process, which led to her lying to a grand jury and the eventual charge of perjury against her, that she confessed and went to prison.

Armstrong went on for many years bullying and threatening anyone who dared to challenge him. In fact, if he had not returned to competition in 2009, following his retirement in 2005, he might have got away with it all.

Should doping become a criminal matter like in Italy and other countries? Is the real deterrence the fear of losing one’s liberty, not being out of sport for a few years?

Investigations now form an integral part of any effective and efficient anti-doping program. There are of course ways and means of obtaining evidence through such inquiries. It need not engage an anti-doping organization in its own investigation work.

If you consider the unscrupulous journey that a doping athlete takes, the anti-doping community has traditionally relied on testing to bring this journey to an end.

With the advent of more and better intelligence, and the support of advancements such as the Athlete Biological Passport, there are processes that can end the journey in other ways.

Athletes can now be caught when they start this doping journey – that is when they purchase their performance enhancing substances – and further down the line when they are taking them in training, and finally during competition.

The anti-doping community is now able to gather biological and non-analytical evidence on doping activities. The bases are being covered.

I turn now to some of the specific challenges WADA faces - or indeed has been encountering for some time - and the steps being taken to address them, in particular through the development of alliances or partnerships.

1. The continuing and increasing engagement of the underworld.

(a) First trafficking and distributing prohibited substances

The incentive to engage in trafficking has been there for a number of years and remains high. In many parts of the world, this is legal activity and the returns on initial investment are vast. For one hundred dollars one might get a return of anything between one thousand and ten thousand dollars.

All governments might appropriately recognize this intrusion; it is a criminal matter if laws are in place and the police will act if there are compelling penalties.

The substances are from raw materials obtained on the internet, and put together in “kitchen laboratories”, unregulated and non-sanitized. They do not just go to elite athletes or their entourage. They go to high school students who want to “look good”, to security agents, to armed forces, to ordinary people in gymnasia. It is a matter of public health and should be of concern to governmental authorities.

The Danish Government looked at the issue closely during its recent term as EU President, and published a very good study examining the problem from a greater societal perspective.

The recent publication “The Sports Doping Market” by Letizia Paoli and Alessandro Donati – commissioned by WADA – clearly shows how law enforcement can assist the fight against doping in sport; BUT, more importantly, that doping is a public health issue and only looking at the issue as it relates to elite athletes reflects “the reality of the public health problem represented by the spread of doping product use among recreational athletes and non-competitive sports people” (pg 229).

(b) Other activities

The criminal underworld makes money out of this activity, but it is also engaged heavily in other aspects challenging the integrity of sport. WADA is well aware that the same people who engage in the distribution and trafficking of prohibited substances are involved in bribery, corruption, money laundering, illegal betting and fraud.

Clearly WADA does not have the mandate, jurisdiction or expertise to engage these underworld figures, but WADA is able to share information with the relevant authorities. Our Chief Investigative Officer has increased these lines of communication.

WADA has recently been engaged in a multi-national enforcement led “bust” on the illegal steroid production industry leading to many arrests and many shut-downs of kitchen style laboratories. Operation Cyberjuice might lead to more prosecutions and perhaps sport sanctions.

2. The growing and encroaching black market for pharmaceutical products.

While we have good and growing arrangements and agreements with the regulated pharmaceutical industry, part of the reason for that is to ensure that evidence of the black market supply is provided to the industry and to the regulators. At present, it is estimated that at least 25% of the world’s pharmaceutical products emanate from the black market and that 50% or more of the drugs sold on the internet are counterfeited. They are non-sanitary and potentially dangerous to health. Again this is a public health matter.

Some of the products are readily available through the internet; some are “stolen” during research and development stages of the regulated industry. A good example of this was given by German television journalists just before the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi of MGF being available despite not being on the market.

This is one of the reasons that WADA has strengthened its relationships with the pharmaceutical and bio technology industries in recent years. Partnerships now exist that allow WADA to receive information on compounds that have the potential for abuse in sport during their research and development stages, and this gives WADA the opportunity to develop detection methods at a much earlier stage.

3. The increasing sophistication of cheating at the high end of sport.

In sport, there continues to be the “dopey” doper who is regularly caught through standard testing protocols, with a large number still risking in-competition testing. This doper effectively catches himself. On the other hand, there is the “sophisticated” doper who continues to get away with cheating.

Some might say the sophistication has expanded since the advent of WADA. Some might say that it has advanced even further through the introduction of the biological passport. Whatever the genesis, increasing sophistication is undoubted.

From micro dosing to manipulation, the clever doper, aided, abetted and considerably financed by clever entourage members, continues to evade detection through the analytical process. And we continue to be haunted by the impunity with which, for example, many have treated human growth hormones and other prohibited substances.

In addition to the increasing partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry, WADA also continues to spend more than 10% of its annual budget on science research.

WADA is under no illusion that it faces a huge struggle to keep pace with the techniques of the sophisticated dopers, but this must continue to be the aim – indeed, we need to get in front and, if that means more thinking like the bad guys, then so we shall and we shall encourage our researchers to do so also.

The IOC President recognized the challenge and the need for more research of an innovative or new style. The new Research Fund will contribute to close the gap on the sophisticated cheater. This is a fund of nearly $US 12 million where governments matched the IOC challenge of asking them to respond to a possible $10 million matching from the IOC.

4. Costs

This includes legal costs, testing costs, research costs, transport of samples costs and others – which do not need any further clarification or explanation.

Any complaint about cost must be put into perspective. The sport industry is estimated to be at least $800 billion-a-year business. Spending $300 million to protect the integrity of such a business does not seem a significant amount of money. In fact, one could easily mount an argument that sport is not spending enough to defeat the biggest scourge it currently confronts.

Regrettably cost can be used as an excuse by those responsible for anti-doping programs not to undertake the best possible approach. For example, not all samples are analyzed for EPO. The fact that only 36 positive cases for EPO were found in 2010 from 258,000 samples, and 43 from 247,000 in 2011 drove WADA to address this issue with the Technical Document on Sport Specific Analysis (TDSSA) but the costs of anti-doping might not get any cheaper. WADA is aware that testing has to become more intelligence based. The challenge also requires a funding level that is more commensurate with the size of the problem. What should be spent to protect the integrity of sport?

5. The trickle down of doping?

Why are athletes being tempted to dope?  And, why is it becoming an issue for society in general?

Is it just because substances are so much more readily available than they were, say, 10 years ago, or is it due to a quantum shift in moral attitudes?

WADA suspects it is a combination of the two, but there is no doubt that attitudes towards doping have changed. Values generally across our societies have changed and there are studies to prove that ‘cheating’ in its many forms is not only commonplace but also considered acceptable in many countries, just so long as you do not get caught.

Cheating pervades all levels of the social spectrum. We have major scandals involving politicians that are fiddling with their expense forms and stories of tax evasion; while, in the world of academia, there is the recent controversy of dozens of students in a Harvard undergraduate class admitting to plagiarism in an open book exam. Without integrity, there can be no genuine achievement.

WADA operates in an age where the values of honesty and integrity are constantly under threat from a ‘win at all costs’ mentality, where the path one takes to achievement is considered irrelevant so long as one can claim success at the end of it, no matter how.

WADA continues to deliver anti-doping messages and information through its Education and Outreach programs, and spurs on its partners worldwide to replicate the WADA model but we also need there to be a greater recognition that doping is wrong – on all levels.

It is not just at the elite level of sport that doping exists - we are now experiencing a significant ‘trickle down’ effect.

There are examples of high school athletes choosing to dope in order to try and win professional contracts - a particular problem with schoolboy rugby in South Africa for example.

We hear of veteran recreational cyclists and runners taking prohibited substances, both to cheat their way to contention and to prolong their careers. Indeed, there was even the recent case of a national federation board member testing positive after competing in an amateur event.

Should there be a greater sense of outrage? Otherwise the trickle-down effect we are now witnessing from the elite to amateur and youth level could become a torrent.

Athletes

Finally, a word in relation to athletes and athlete groups. WADA is essentially a body looking after the clean athlete. Sport relies on athletes for its survival. Sport does not exist without athletes. These athlete groups are most important in terms of representation of athletes. There are many areas in which appropriate representation can lead to proper voices for athletes. Sport must be very aware of its athletes and must take careful steps to ensure they are engaged. The rights of the clean athlete must be protected. The clean athlete must be heard.

Entourage

Sport and governments must realize that, in most cases, it is not athletes acting alone who abandon everything for which they should stand. They are assisted, counselled, sometimes tricked and occasionally forced into the downward spiral of cheating.

Coaches, trainers, medical doctors, scientists, sports administrators - even some misguided parents - all of whom ought to know better, make a mockery of their responsibilities and trivialize the years of training and dedication of the trusting athletes whom they betray.

Again this has been addressed to a degree in the revised Code, but imposing sanctions often relies on governmental processes, not sport tribunals.

Legal challenges

The anti-doping community also faces challenges from a legal perspective. These include:

  1. Different timings in hearings – delays and process elongated by lawyers.
  2. The debate about data protection and the right of privacy.
  3. The continuous battle to ensure there is a proper balance between the rights of the individual and the need to eliminate doping from sport. Proportionality is the catch cry. Many of those who use it, however, are not aware of the very limited class of elite athletes to whom some of the rules apply. Proportionality prevails. Human rights also prevail, and both were incorporated into the revised 2015 Code following input from a very senior Human Rights Judge from the European Court.
  4. The issue of food contamination; the issue of supplements; and how appropriate sanctions can be handed down in cases involving specified substances.
  5. The rules appear to some to be getting more complicated. Laboratory directors and scientists in general continue to be conservative, perhaps encouraged by the legal process making demands to be 100% certain of their findings. This is seen as unrealistic by scientists who never think in terms of absolute certainty. Indeed, it may be suggested that some are in favour of not returning adverse results for fear of the legal process, and the time required to give evidence under cross examination. Indeed, I think it is fair to say that scientists do not enjoy the adversarial approach of lawyers within the common law system.

WADA also can share the experience it has gained as a unique international organization for the possible formation of a body to protect the integrity of sport, with all aspects that challenge integrity to be encompassed, anti-doping being but one arm.

Sport cannot deal with issues of match manipulation, bribery, corruption, spot fixing and other challenges to its integrity on its own. The whole situation at the biggest sport federation, FIFA, surely now shows that there is an urgent need for an independent body. There are sufficient other “stories” out there at present indicating that sport is simply ill-equipped to cope with its own internal problems. A comment here – perhaps the nineteenth century structures need rebuilding, not just patchy maintenance?

WADA has worked very closely with national law enforcement agencies, Interpol, and other investigators responsible for maintaining integrity in individual sports or sporting leagues. It is the unanimous view of all those experienced individuals that the criminal underworld responsible for trafficking steroids and other prohibited substances is also engaged in illegal betting, bribery and corruption. Let’s not be naive either; it is legal betting which also attracts bribery and corruption even if the significant risks here might be easier to deal with, relatively speaking, and legal betting is the one area where the underworld launders its dirty money, not worrying if the bet is at odds where the return is negative. There are not two, three, or four separate groups but they are all part and parcel of the same problem. Bad people do bad things.

From a common sense perspective therefore it is efficient and effective to consider a united world body formed between Sport and Government to tackle these intertwined issues, with engagement and involvement of others where appropriate.  

Perhaps a world sports integrity agency could be established with the same governance as WADA. In other words, an equal sharing of governance between Sport and Governments. Why not have an overarching board that can have different  arms in terms of the aspects it deals with, namely doping, betting, bribery and corruption? Membership can easily be extended to others if necessary. In WADA’s case this has not been necessary to date as Memoranda of Understanding have been more appropriate.

It is important to be direct and open in relation to the issue. Some have estimated that the criminal underworld now is engaged in at least 25% of world sport in one way or another.

So what can be gleaned from the successful WADA Sport/Government model? Sport cannot undertake inquiries or investigations in order to gather evidence to be used in tribunals. Sport has no real power or jurisdiction, Governments do. There are already several international treaties in place for corruption whilst others have laws to cover betting and bribery.

Funding of any new arm of this agency can be considered separately. For example, the illegal betting arm might benefit from appropriate contributions from the legal and regulated betting bodies of the world, who need to protect their business, and/or from the collection of amounts received by law enforcement in dealing with illegal betting (at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, in a period of only a few weeks, Interpol discovered US$155 million in illegal betting, and seized $9.9 million). The arm relating to bribery and corruption could again quite properly be funded by the funds that might be collected as a result of investigations, prosecutions and seizures. The agencies concerned might be usefully modeled on WADA with a small management team operating internationally but engaging those who are in the field.

Let’s not limit this challenge to match-fixing and illegal betting. Expand it to include the ever-increasing aspect of corruption and bribery. They all pose challenges to the integrity and values of sport. Why delay?

In conclusion, I leave you with a series of thoughts or questions.

The anti-doping rules have been reviewed and revised. We look now to implementation and practice of the rules with an emphasis on quality practice.

We must confront complacency and ensure there is long-term commitment from all. A proper mix of prevention and deterrence, and greater regard by our youth for the values of sport, will result in a more level playing field.

Further alliances with the pharmaceutical industry and the arms of government, such as health, along with recognition of the fact that doping is not limited to elite athletes, will be of benefit to our young people and society in general.

These matters will improve the rights of clean athletes.

Finally, can we now respond efficiently and effectively to the other challenges imposed to the values of sport. What is the correct practical reaction to the sinking ship of FIFA? Is this the same stimulus, or even greater, than that provided by the Festina arrests in 1998 on the Tour de France, exacerbated on the international sport stage by the problems encountered by the IOC from Salt Lake City? It certainly seems so, and with the vast majority of the governors of FIFA either being charged with corruption or subject to investigation, the time is very right for action.

Thank you.