Saturday, March 28, 2009

Drug testing and privacy issues cloud Soccer's Olympics future

Evan Weiner
Business of Sports Examiner

Drug testing and privacy issues cloud Soccer's Olympics future

March 27, 2:08 PM

The merry band of men who run the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) are not a happy group. The World Anti-Doping Agency, a group that thinks it is always right and has seized the moral high ground in the war on the usage of performance enhancing drugs in sports, has come up with a new proposal to clean up cheating in football or as it is called in the United States, soccer.

WADA wants to football federations to keep track of players 365 days a year, 24 hours a day so they can administer drug tests. WADA has a new sheriff in town, John Fahey who is seemingly not very happy that two football organizations have no intention of using Kremlin-like tactics to spy on players. WADA put out an angry statement that is supposed to show who is boss, after all, WADA thinks it has more juice than any police department or government.

“WADA was surprised and concerned to read the statement issued on March 24 by the world and European football governing bodies, FIFA and UEFA, in relation to universally harmonized whereabouts requirements that took effect on January 1, 2009.
Under the 2009 International Standard for Testing, which was unanimously approved in May 2008 by WADA’s Executive Committee (including representatives of International Sports Federations), the limited number of top elite athletes included in an International Federation or National Anti-Doping Organization registered testing pool must indicate one hour a day during which they can be tested at a specified location. The new Standard also provides team sports with the opportunity of submitting the whereabouts of their relevant athletes on a collective basis as part of team activities. This specific point was the result of requests from and extensive consultation with team sports, including FIFA, and was specifically made to accommodate team sports.
Under the Standard, the one-hour time-slot indicated by the athlete or his/her team can include any location, including training grounds. But the opportunity for anti-doping organizations to test athletes is not limited to the chosen one-hour time-slot and location.
“One of the key principles of efficient doping control is the surprise effect and the possibility to test an athlete without advance notice on a 365 day basis,” said WADA’s President John Fahey. “Alleging, as FIFA and UEFA do, that testing should only take place at training grounds and not during holiday periods, ignores the reality of doping in sport. Experience has demonstrated that athletes who cheat seize every opportunity to do so and dope when they believe they won’t be tested. Some substances and methods disappear quickly from the body while keeping their performance-enhancing effects. Anti-doping organizations must therefore be able to test athletes at all times in an intelligent fashion. WADA stakeholders have recognized this reality, and the feedback we have received from the overwhelming majority of other sports, but also from athletes and all those who support doping-free sport, strongly contradicts FIFA’s and UEFA’s stance.”

FIFA and the UFEA have told WADA to get lost and have brought up the issue of privacy rights, something that WADA doesn’t believe is valid for elite athletes. The International Olympic Committee, a cheerful group of people who also believes it is above the law as IOC President Jacques Rogge attempted to prove in 2006 when he suggested to Italian authorities that the IOC take control of the Turin Olympic Village drug enforcement laws because taking illegal performance enhancing drugs really wasn’t breaking the law, rather it is just cheating, is backing up WADA in this case fully, to the point where the IOC might want to get rid of soccer in the Summer Games.

WADA put out a statement on the site with a not so veiled threat.
“At a meeting between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board and the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) held on March 25 in Denver as part of the Sportaccord Convention, the IOC President, Jacques Rogge, reiterated his strong support to the fight against doping and WADA’s work. He also urged all sports to comply with the World Anti-Doping Code.
The Olympic Charter provides that only sports that comply with the Code can be part of the program of the Olympic Games.”

FIFA President Seth Blatter thinks WADA’s is conducting a “witch hunt.” Of course, this is nothing new for WADA connected people. When the Montreal lawyer Richard Pound was running the group he had a laundry list of complaints which included his accusation that one third of the players in the National Hockey League were using illegal performance enhancers and going after Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong.

WADA and the IOC are partners in taking on the drug culture and apparently are willing to do their testing without search warrants at any time. The football people are correct, test the players at the facilities. The neither WADA or the IOC should have the right to knock on someone’s door at 3AM and demanding a test. If they suspect a player is taking illegal substances, get a search warrant from the rightful authorities, law enforcement agencies.

The IOC runs roughshod over governments in terms of the economic damage caused by IOC demands if a city wants to hold an Olympics. The economic carnage in Montreal, Sydney and Athens was passed onto taxpayers. Because the IOC got mad at Major League Baseball for not sending stars to the Summer Olympics, they started complaining to people like Arizona Senator John McCain about MLB’s lax drug testing policies. Somehow the steroids issue made it into President George W. Bush’s 2004 State of the Union address and by 2005 Congress was wasting time on steroids use in baseball. The IOC basically told United States officials New York and other American cities would not get the Olympics unless American sports leagues adhered to the IOC drug testing standards.

The IOC actually did New York a favor. New York City and New York State are not on the hook for the billions of dollars to build facilities for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The IOC may be in for a rude surprise if it pushes football or soccer. FIFA doesn’t need to be in the Olympics. The World Cup is a bigger sports event that is bigger than the IOC’s every four year summer sports orgy. The football people value privacy, something the neither IOC nor WADA officials care about.

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