World Anti-Doping Agency director-general David Howman has welcomed a new test for human growth hormone. The test was approved by WADA prior to the Olympic Games and was used to catch two athletes at the recent Paralympics. Speaking to Cyclingnews, Howman also commented on the Tyler Hamilton’s autobiography “The Secret Race” and explained the agency’s stance on the US Postal and Lance Armstrong case.
“It’s a significant step forward,” Howman said when discussing the finalisation of a human growth hormone test. Although still in its infancy, the ability to test for HGH is a major stepping stone in the fight against doping. Originally funded by the IOC in the late 90s, WADA took up leadership in the development of the test in the mid-2000s.
“It’s something that came into effect just prior to the Games and we’re happy that it works. From that point of view, it’s a step in the right direction. It’s been a long haul and a lot of work but it’s been pretty well done by scientists. When you get a new analysis in place it does take a wee while before it goes global.”
Howman recently attended the Paralympics but away from the spotlight of competition, WADA is scrupulously working on a re-draft of its code. The first draft has already been published but there are several consultation phases before a new code will be approved in November and brought into place in 2015.
Howman is aware that the code itself is only part of the fight against doping. This spring he told Cyclingnews that the number of cheating athletes was in double figures.
“I don’t think anything has convinced me to the contrary,” he told Cyclingnews on Wednesday.
“What I’ve been doing recently is saying, 'look around society.' It’s not as if cheating is just appearing. There was a report out of Harvard recently that said 10 per cent of one student class were guilty of plagiarism. Then you look down at the trickle-down effect of doping where you have that guy in the Danish cycling federation who was banned for EPO and a 46-year-old amateur banned in the US for the same substance. Then when you add to that the proliferation of steroids in the local gyms, you’ve just got to say that the stuff is out there and being used. When there’s money to be made, the criminal will be involved.”
Hamilton’s secret race
Tyler Hamilton’s recent autobiography is a first-hand account of the personal and widespread doping that was prevalent in the peloton during the American's career. Howman has read the book but in the greater context of the Armstrong investigation, he would not comment on the case until USADA provided their reasoned decision on why they banned Armstrong while two of the individuals accused by USADA of doping-related violations have yet to have their personal hearings.
But as far as Hamilton’s book is concerned, Howman says: “You can see in that, and he’s talking about a time 7 or 8 years ago, you can see what was going on then and it’s going on now and it’s probably elevated. That’s the concern for sure. I thought it was a very interesting book. The detail was clear and provides a view from someone who was right in the middle of it.”
“What we have to do is be cautious because there’s more to come out from USADA. I’ve always been one, and I’ve been trained this way, you don’t attack someone for opening their mouth and saying what they think is true just because in the past they’ve said something which wasn’t true. You’ve got to examine everything in the context of the information and you’ve got to see if it’s corroborated. I think sometimes you’ve got to have more patience. It’s hard these days but you’ve got to get the full story. I think that’s probably what’s happened in this investigation and I await to see the content of the reasoned decision and I think we [WADA] have to have patience to wait for that decision too.”
WADA’s position has been attacked in recent weeks. They, along with USADA, have been labelled as witch hunters by a minority. The UCI President Pat McQuaid told Cyclingnews during the Olympics that WADA had a vendetta against the UCI and cycling. However, Howman has remained determined not to comment on the specifics of the case until after the evidence has been presented.
“What we’ve got to do is remain above all of that and make sure that what we do is independent. We’ve got a right to see it all and then decide if there’s an appeal from our end and then make sure we guard that right preciously and make sure we do that by not commenting on what other people are saying. That's difficult because sometimes the natural inclination is to respond to criticism but we’ve waited in the past and we’ll wait this time."
As for McQuaid’s comments, Howman added: “I think that’s pretty unfair and untrue. It’s a regrettable comment to have made. I don’t understand that. There’s a situation at the moment where a lot of words have been spoken in a scenario where we’ve got to shut up and wait for the reasoned decision from USADA. We’ll do that because we’ve got to show the world that we’ve looked at it carefully. We don’t want to start saying what we think or feel in the media. It’s just not right."