VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada has all the legal power it needs to enforce anti-doping rules in athlete villages for next year’s Winter Olympics, including authorizing police raids, Vancouver Olympics official Dick Pound said on Monday.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been working with organizers of the 2010 Games and Canadian law enforcement officials on a protocol on sharing information to combat use of banned performance enhancing drugs.
Canada does not have specific laws dealing with athletes’ use of performance enhancing drugs, which has raised questions about police being able to conduct raids in athlete villages, such as those conducted by authorities at the 2006 Turin Games.
Pound, former head of the World Anti-Doping Commission and a board member of the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC), said police tipped off with evidence could conduct raids as long as they had obtained a warrant from a judge.
“The police have all the necessary powers to investigate trafficking and possession and things like that in relation to those substances,” Pound told Reuters.
”You provide (police) with a statement we are in possession of this evidence and on the basis of that we believe there are infractions going on involving drugs A, B and C and it is team X doing that.
“The (police) would probably take that to a judge and say we believe this is sufficient ground to issue a warrant.”
‘NO EMBASSY BUBBLE’
The 2010 Games on Canada’s Pacific coast will have two athletes villages, one in Vancouver and another in the ski resort community of Whistler, British Columbia.
At Turin, police conducted raids on facilities housing members of the Austrian biathlon and cross-country ski teams, and seized doping products and equipment after acting on a tip from Olympic officials.
“Convincing the court to approve a warrant would require that the drug an athlete is suspected of possessing would have to be illegal under Canadian law,” Vancouver Police Constable Lindsey Houghton said.
Athletes would have the same rights to privacy as normal residents or visitors, but would not have any special legal protections in the villages, such as those for foreign embassies.
“There’s no embassy bubble,” Houghton said.
VANOC and the IOC are currently attempting to develop a protocol that would allow police to share information obtained during investigations or when athletes undergo border checks when they arrive in Canada.
Privacy issues, however, currently limit the information police can share with non-government groups such as VANOC or the International Olympic Committee.
“The problem we are dealing with is if the police use their powers of investigation and find a skier in possession of steroids there are a whole bunch of laws surrounding police that prevent and impede them sharing that information,” said Pound, a Montreal lawyer.
A spokeswoman for the special police unit overseeing Olympic security said there were no plans now to share investigation information with VANOC, and border agents could only seize materials that were illegal in Canada.
“What we’re looking for as part of the world doping code is some means in each country for the public authorities to share that information only for the purposes of sports related sanctions,” Pound said.
Editing by Ian Ransom