Doping has been in the news again, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announcing on Thursday that 16 more athletes from the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing had tested positive for banned substances, then adding 12 more to that tally on Monday from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
That brings the total number of athletes disqualified for doping at those two Olympics to well over 100.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) also held its Foundation Board meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, this weekend, agreeing on a whistleblower-protection program as well as a system of graded sanctions for countries who do not comply to the World Anti-Doping Code.
“The decision by the Board to grant WADA authority to develop a new, meaningful graded sanctioning system is welcomed by athletes; particularly, as it provides a direct answer to the call made by athletes earlier this year for a stronger, meaningful system of consequences for non-compliance,” WADA Athlete Committee Chair Beckie Scott, a former Canadian cross-country skier, said in a WADA press release. “If we all agree that WADA should be independent and empowered as the regulator of doping in sport, then how could we not agree to equip WADA with the tools it needs to do its job fully… On behalf of athletes, I feel confident in saying that we are pleased that this decision has been made today in the interest of clean sport.”
The system will reportedly have three tiers of sanctions, with countries committing the most serious and recurring offenses being barred from hosting the Olympics, World Championships and other major events. That would be applied to countries where the government interferes with anti-doping work or manipulates the testing sytem.
The first level of sanctioning would be a result of administrative problems, and is proposed to bring in assistance from WADA in order to return to Code compliance. The second level of sanctions would apply when there are problems in testing procedures, at which point countries will be assessed a fine.
Five countries are currently deemed Code non-compliant: Russia, which has been out of compliance since November 2015, but which has not faced any of the sanctions suggested above, although athletes in some sports have been barred from competing by their individual sports federations; Spain, which has been noncompliant since March 2016; and Brazil, Azerbaijan, and Indonesia, which were declared noncompliant at the Glasgow meeting.
In the future, such countries could face sanctions. But International Ski Federation (FIS) President Gian Franco Kasper does not see it as WADA’s place to offer such punishments.
“Sanctioning entire countries is purely political and I do not agree with this,” Kasper told Insidethegames. “WADA should not be a body which gives sanctions.”
He also did not appear optimistic about the future of clean sport.
“We need to stop pretending sport is clean,” he told New York Times reporter Rebecca Ruiz. “It’s a noble principle, but in practice? It’s entertainment. It’s drama.”
Russia, which is currently non-compliant with the WADA Code, is hosting World Cups in multiple ski and snowboard disciplines later this season, and FIS has made no public show of moving them.
Similarly, the International Biathlon Union (IBU) will see Russia hosting World Cups in March 2017, and also recently awarded Russia the 2021 World Championships.
That was a topic of discussion at the WADA Foundation Meeting. The Compliance Review Committee is beginning action against the IBU, which it sees as having jeopardized its own compliance by awarding a major event to a country which does not comply with the Code.
The Code states that international federations like the IBU must “do everything possible to award World Championships only to countries where the Government has ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to the UNESCO Convention, and where the National Olympic Committee, National Paralympic Committee and National Anti-Doping Organisation are in compliance with the Code”.
The IBU has been given until January to offer a satisfactory explanation to WADA for why the Russian city of Tyumen was selected as the World Championships host site.
The second part of that investigation, headed by Richard McLaren, is set to drop on Dec. 9.
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.