BEIJING (Reuters) - Science will ultimately put out the doping firestorm that has engulfed athletics in the run-up to the world championships, Craig Reedie, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), said on Friday.
The governing body of athletics, the IAAF, has been in crisis since data from thousands of blood samples was leaked to two media organizations this month.
Three weeks of further leaks and allegations that the IAAF has been soft on dopers have overshadowed the run-up to its biennial showpiece, which opens in Beijing with the men’s marathon on Saturday.
WADA were asked to form an independent commission to investigate the allegations by German broadcaster ARD and British newspaper The Sunday Times that the IAAF had failed to probe hundreds of “suspicious” tests between 2001 and 2012.
“It’s been a little bit of a firestorm; I think the World Anti-Doping Agency has been pretty clear in its views that the allegations were based on data that was questionable from a scientific and a legal point of view,” Reedie told Reuters in an interview on the eve of the championships.
”Our scientists and experts have already started working down in Monaco and we await the results of those investigations with interest.
“I would like to think that things are quietening down and I hope they are. At the end of the day, I’m quite certain science will prevail and we’ll come through this.”
Reedie welcomed the election of Sebastian Coe to the IAAF presidency this week, saying his fellow Briton was a “convinced anti-doper” who would be a powerful ally in the battle against the use of banned substances in sport.
He said Coe’s pledge to move to an independent anti-doping agency for athletics would not be in conflict with WADA’s work, suggesting the sport might sensibly follow the lead of cycling’s governing body, the UCI.
“It won’t be conflicting in any way because whatever the IAAF do will come under the overall heading of the world anti-doping code and WADA regulations,” said Reedie.
”I think the best comparable example is that of the UCI, who have separated their promotion and development area... from its sanctioning body.
“It does actually remove the apparent conflict that one body is doing two things. I think it could well be helpful.”
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach earlier said in a news conference that Coe’s plans were “quite interesting” and would be discussed at an Olympic summit in October.
Reedie was keen to disassociate himself from comments attributed to him in an interview last weekend, when he was reported to be in favor of a blanket ban on countries whose athletes regularly doped.
“The situation as WADA sees it is very clear, we do not have that authority,” he said.
“All we can do is declare somebody non-compliant with the code and it is up to our stakeholders to take advice.”
The ban for a serious doping offence has recently been increased from two to four years but Reedie said it was not viable to impose life bans.
”It’s a very topical issue every time doping is discussed,“ Reedie said. ”(But) if we introduced life bans, it is our legal advice that that would not be regarded as proportionate.
“If we did it, we would immediately be in court, we’d lose the case and that does not make any sense at all.”
Reedie said there was no complacency in those charged with fighting doping and put his faith in WADA’s independent commission as well as Saturday’s start of the championships to bring an end to the crisis in athletics.
“I don’t blame media for doing what they do; we have to react to it and I think we have reacted to it pretty sensibly, particularly in the creation of an independent commission to look at it,” he said.
“I think it will settle down. Frequently before any championship, there is a sort of seething hotbed of discussion and rumor and then the sport starts. I think it might well be that tomorrow morning’s marathon will be quite wonderful.”
Editing by Clare Fallon