News / Africa

Anti-Doping Conference Begins in Johannesburg

FILE - John Fahey, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, delivers a speech in Paris.
FILE - John Fahey, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, delivers a speech in Paris.
— Anti-doping agencies from around the world are meeting in the South African city of Johannesburg for a four-day conference to revise sport doping guidelines. The new, stricter guidelines come amid a worldwide wave of doping scandals in nearly every sport, from athletics to wrestling.

Representatives from sporting bodies, athletes and experts are meeting in Johannesburg to review the World Anti-Doping Code, which was last amended in 2009. The World Anti-Doping Code is the core document that provides the framework for anti-doping policies, rules and regulations for the entire sporting fraternity.

In the past 18 months the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA, engaged stakeholders in sports in an intensive review process of the 2009 code and associated international standards. 

Fine-tuning the code

In September this year, the WADA executive committee approved the revisions. It is this revised draft code that is being presented at the conference. The delegates will make their final inputs on the revised draft code before it is presented to the WADA Foundation Board for final approval.

John Fahey, chairman and president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said he is hopeful the conclusion of the conference will be a milestone in the fight against doping.

"We now have more intelligent and comprehensive testing programs in place that I believe will be further enhanced upon the ratification of the revised code," he said. "We have a code compliance reporting process and numerous educating tools available to help stakeholders, and inform and guide the youth of the world."

The revised draft code has more than 2,000 amendments, but delegates have mixed feelings on whether the new code will have more impact than the current one.

Sanctions

The draft proposes a four-year ban for those who intentionally use prohibited substances to enhance their performance. Coaches and trainers who assist their athlete with doping will also be held accountable.

The draft stipulates that the testing of athletes and the disciplinary procedures for those suspected of doping should be done within acceptable human rights principles. Investigations and intelligence gathering should be used in conjunction with testing.

Other changes include making the code shorter and clearer, balancing the interests of international federations and national anti-doping organizations and authorizing laboratories to analyze samples for substances beyond those requested by the testing authority.

However, Hezekiel Sepeng, Grassroots and Development Athletes Coordinator at Athletics South Africa, argues that for many poor athletes in Africa, whose diet is more controlled by their circumstances, merely changing the rules may not help much. He suggests vigorous and targeted awareness campaigns for such athletes, especially on the doping dangers posed by some of the food they traditionally grew up eating.

"Education, education, education, we need to educate our athletes, with all the things that are changing, You know these things should not only change up there, especially in Europe or in symposiums, and should filter down to rural areas," he said.

Sepeng, 39, was South Africa's first black Olympic medalist, winning the silver in a surprise surge in the 800 meter race in Atlanta in 1996. But he was banned from athletics in 2005 after testing positive for a banned substance. He said the lab made an error.

The four day conference will conclude Friday, with a revised version of the World Anti-Doping Code being adopted and endorsed by WADA’s Foundation Board. The new code will come into effect in January 2015.

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