Culture change needed if doping to be curbed: expert

Thu Aug 6, 2015 10:02am EDT
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By Gene Cherry

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - Until national federations and governments put clean competition ahead of winning medals, sport faces a difficult task in its battle against doping, a longtime U.S. observer of athletics says.

The challenge is made even greater by sometimes complicated procedures for determining what is a positive dope test, finding the proper balance of science and the legal system and inadequate funding, author and writer James Ferstle told Reuters.

While praising the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and other organizations for being a countermeasure to those who cheat, "it's not all that much different than it was way back when" in the '60s and '70s when doping was rampant, Ferstle, who has been investigating and writing about doping for nearly three decades, said in a telephone interview from Minnesota.

"None of it is surprising," he said of allegations by German broadcaster ARD/WDR and British newspaper The Sunday Times of widespread doping in athletics.

Certain national sports federations, in a bid to keep the medals coming, are continuing to find loopholes in anti-doping rules and using delaying tactics to keep athletes eligible, Ferstle said.

"There are those who have been allowed to compete even though they should be provisionally suspended," he said. "There are loopholes in the different segments of the sports world where you can be banned by some groups and still compete in others."

Part of the problem is the adjudication process for an adverse finding on a drug test.

In most cases, suspicious cases must first be adjudicated by national federations -- the same federations that want to keep athletes eligible -- before independent organizations like WADA and national anti-doping organizations can attempt to overrule an incorrectly decided case, Ferstle said.   Continued...