Rogge wants to fight back

IOC president Jacques Rogge is concerned that the public will lose its confidence in sports, in the...

IOC president Jacques Rogge is concerned that the public will lose its confidence in sports, in the wake of the recent high profile doping cases involving Tour winner Floyd Landis and 100m sprint world record holder Justin Gatlin. Speaking to Belgian, Rogge said, "What happened with Landis and Gatlin is very disappointing. Naturally I understand that the public can lose its confidence. What alarms me the most is the judicial investigation Operacion Puerto in Spain, where 56 names have been circulated. The fight against doping is certainly not perfect, and could be improved. But you can't throw the baby out with the bathwater: we have to keep calm and simply fight harder."

Rogge said that he was not naïve when it came to doping in sports, but he was disappointed. "My first priority is always zero tolerance against doping. You have to be a little bit realistic: 800 million people do competitive sport. They are not all angels: whining and deceit are part of human nature, and sport is not holier than society. But it is our sacred duty to fight."

Rogge is of the opinion that there are four things that will help combat doping the most. Firstly, more surprise out of competition testing. "And by that I mean real unannounced controls, out of the blue. So you don't say: in an hour or early tomorrow morning we'll be here or there. Among others, we caught the Greek athletes Kenteris and Thanou like this.

"Secondly, we have to catch a lot more of the entourage: sports directors, trainers, doctors, physiotherapists..."

Although doping is not a criminal offence in most countries, police have been able to uncover doping networks on the basis of other crimes, e.g. Operacion Puerto is based on the charge that certain doctors are endangering the public health by allegedly carrying out blood transfusions and other doping practices. Both Rogge and UCI president Pat McQuaid have called for more police help in their quest to clean up sports. "Operacion Puerto proved that," said Rogge. "We can not organise phone tapping and house searches."

Finally, Rogge proposed that sporting competitions should be intrinsically easier to discourage doping. He pointed to women's tennis, where injuries are common among most of the top players. "Is the pace of tennis too difficult for the body?" he asked. "The Williams sisters are injured a lot, Lindsay Davenport, Mary Pierce... couldn't there be longer rest periods between the tournaments?"

As far as cycling goes, Rogge put forward a controversial view. "We have to dare to ask the tours of France and Italy whether the load is ideal. In this context, a panel of specialists together with the riders can examine what the ideal load is. I'm not the only one who's said that: Tom Boonen has also said it."

Incumbent Tour boss Christian Prudhomme is against the idea of making the race shorter, however. "We will neither shorten the stages nor the total distance," he said in Germany on Tuesday. "Nobody had the idea to shorten the 100 metres to 90 after the positive test of Justin Gatlin, did they?"

Rogge was also asked whether he believed all drugs should simply be legalised in sports, as some have suggested. "Never! That's impossible. Then you let all your responsibility go. You have to protect the clean athletes. It's the same as if the police said that they couldn't catch all the criminals, therefore they should give up. That cannot happen, of course."

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