WADA hopeful biological passport can extend to other sports

Director General of the WADA, David Howman

Director General of the WADA, David Howman (Image credit: AFP)

Referring to the biological passport as a 'step in the right direction,' World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) director general David Howman has told Cyclingnews he hopes that the anti-doping monitoring can extend into other sports.

WADA will meet with Bernhard Kohl this week, however, in order to ascertain if it is as easy to bypass the testing as the Austrian recently claimed.

"I think we have to be positive in terms of saying that the passport is leading to a situation where there can be a sanction process, so it is a step in the right direction," said Howman on Tuesday. "I think that the first steps in a new project are always a little more conservative than everybody would wish for. But it is going in the right way and we hope that it can be advanced even further.

"What we are doing at present is working with the UCI, other sports [federations] and experts so that we can produce a publication showing to any individual sport or country how to run a programme. The goal is that there is harmony across the globe. I am an easily frustrated person and I would have liked this to have been done yesterday, but it does take time to ensure that we have it perfectly in place."

The UCI's biological passport had its first confirmed cases earlier this month when five riders were named as being under investigation.

Former world champion Igor Astarloa, Pietro Caucchioli, Ricardo Serrano, Ruben Lobato Elvira and Francesco De Bonis can all expect lengthy bans if found guilty. The UCI has said that more names will follow in time.

However, Bernhard Kohl's statements earlier this month have raised question marks, given that he said that it was relatively easy to circumvent the programme. The Austrian finished third in last year's Tour and was King of the Mountains, before later testing positive for CERA.

Howman said that WADA is going to meet with Kohl and discuss these claims. "The first reaction is that you have to take all these comments from athletes very seriously, and you investigate them. We spoke to Bernhard toward the end of last year, and we are speaking to him again this week. We will listen to him and see if there is any merit to what he says. If there is merit, we will certainly respond. The worst thing you can have is a programme that is easily defeated."

At this point in time, Howman said that he is satisfied with the procedures that have been put in place by the AFLD and the UCI for this year's Tour. He wants the riders to play their part. "From our perspective, the anti-doping programme that is in place for the Tour is very good. We can't ask for more, in terms of quality...Let's hope the riders accept the responsibility that is firmly on their shoulders. They are the guys who really have to front up and show that they are taking this fight against doping seriously."

Out of competition testing:

One threat to WADA's work cropped up earlier this year when several sporting bodies plus a group of Belgian athletes protested against out of competition testing. That has, according to Howman, been partially resolved, but the Belgian issue looks likely to go to court.

"Complaints were made in the first few weeks of the year when this was a new activity," he said. "We have had many discussions with athlete groups and we resolved any issue with FIFA and others. The rules are in place, they are doing a programme this year involving the whereabouts in the way that the rules provide. What we are going to do is to look at the practice at the end of the year and see how it has all gone.

"The Belgian case is ongoing and as such, I can't really talk about it. But we are keeping a very close eye on that to make sure that whenever judge or tribunal eventually gets to hear the matter, they have the full facts."

Howman said that he has been in discussion with the Spanish authorities about another threat to the out of competition testing, namely a recently-approved decree banning testing between 11 pm and 8 am. The decree reportedly also permits athletes to take unannounced trips, providing they are less than three days in length.

Howman said that the issue raised concerns for WADA, but that he has been having positive talks. "Even as I am talking to you now, we are in discussion with Spain to make suggestions as to how that could be written to be code compliant. They are very receptive of the suggestions that we are providing, and I hope it will be resolved in the right way."

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