(ATR) There’s tough talk from Katowice, Poland on the opening morning of the World Conference on Doping in Sport organized by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Incoming WADA President Witold Banka speaks at doping conference. (Getty Images)
The next president of the agency, Witold Banka, signaled his intentions to be a hard liner when he takes office January 1. Banka, a former elite runner, is currently Poland minister for sport and tourism.
“We must not let anyone be above the law, be it a single athlete, a coach or a country. Regardless of who they are, if they violate the rules and act against the idea of clean sport, they should be severely punished. WADA should impose penalties more often, not just wag a finger,” said Banka.
“Today I would like to send a very strong message to all of us from this place, from Katowice. I will never tolerate cheating in sport. I will never tolerate dopers. I will never tolerate manipulations.
“I will do my best to protect clean athletes and enhance the anti-doping system. The new future of anti-doping starts today,” said Banka.
The 35-year-old is expected to be confirmed Thursday as the next president of WADA, the youngest of the three others who have held the post since the agency was formed 20 years ago. He’ll serve a six-year term that begins January 1.
He derided the WADA budget of $44 million as “ridiculous”.
“Each of us who have taken a careful look at WADA’s budget knows that it is not in proportion with the expectations raised for the organization. If WADA is to safeguard clean sport, in a bold and courageous way, a sufficient budget must be secured for it,” Banka said.
“We must not passively accept the situation. Therefore, I call upon global sports leaders, but also my colleagues who represent governments, as well as private companies: if you want sport to be clean, you need to increase your financial support for the fight against doping in sport,” he urged.
Bach Pledges $$, Attacks Entourage Evils
Banka’s call for more money in the anti-doping fight was answered partially by IOC President Thomas Bach. In a 25-page speech opening the conference, the IOC leader pledged upwards of $10 million to fund specific new projects for WADA.
Thomas Bach in Katowice (Getty Images)
Included is the cost of storing samples taken during the Tokyo Olympics that will be analyzed for genetic sequencing once a valid test is approved. He estimates that will cost about $5 million.
Bach offered a wide range perspective on the fight against doping. But Bach reserved specific attention to those individuals who make doping possible.
“Whether it was the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping system in Russia, or the investigations around “Operation Aderlass”, or the most recent allegations against a coach of the former Nike Oregon Project – all these cases, as different as they are, highlight the urgent need to focus much more on the athletes’ entourage,” said Bach.
“The athlete is not the only culprit. The athlete is supported and sometimes even driven to or forced into doping by a secretive network which may include coaches, agents, dealers, managers, officials from government or sport organizations, doctors, physiotherapists or others,” said the IOC president.
While the IOC already has an Entourage Commission headed by Sergei Bubka, Bach says it will take concerted coordination and effort by national bodies to attack the entourage problem.
Bach took aim at criticism that athletes were not properly represented in WADA and the IOC.
“At the outset, let us set the record straight regarding athletes’ representation in WADA: the fact is that the athletes already have representation in the WADA Executive and Foundation Boards. The IOC made this representation of athletes possible by giving up seats of the sports movement in favor of democratically elected athletes’ representatives.
“The IOC fully supports the incoming WADA president as a former athlete and put forward an Olympic champion as WADA Vice-President.
“Taken together with the existing athletes’ representation on the WADA decision-making bodies, this puts the athletes in the driver’s seat of WADA. The IOC continues to fully support this positive development,” said Bach.
He also noted “members of the IOC Athletes’ Commission enjoy full legitimacy through the democratic election by all the Olympic athletes during the Olympic Games. They are the ones who can speak on behalf of those who elected them –the athletes,” he said.
Reedie Says Russia Scandal WADA's Worst
Craig Reedie, the outgoing WADA President, reviewed his six-year tenure in his speech to the opening of the WADA conference. Reedie, an IOC member in Great Britain and a member of the WADA board since its founding, says one of the agency’s successes is the spread of anti-doping awareness in sport.
Craig Reedie and Witold Banka enter conference hall. (Getty Images)
“There are not many aspects of modern life that have achieved the level of international and cross-sport cooperation as anti-doping,” he said.
But Reedie noted that his term as president also includes the scandal involving Russia that grew out of manipulated and fraudulent testing around the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
“The worst case of system failure, certainly in my time as President, if not in the entire history of the antidoping movement, has been with Russia,” he said.
“Confirmation of that unprecedented level of cheating left the sports world in no doubt of the scale of the job facing WADA and has re-awakened all stakeholders to the importance of sports integrity,” Reedie said.
Although Russia has been reinstated conditionally by WADA and the IOC, data supplied to the agency earlier this year from the still suspended Moscow doping lab may lead to further problems for Russia. Reedie says that analysis is incomplete but has already led investigators to dig further into possible manipulation.
The conference in Poland is the fifth held by WADA since it was formed in 1999. About 1600 delegates are attending this week’s meeting which runs until November 7.
Reported by Ed Hula.
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