British official: Anti-doping fight in 'dark age'

November 15, 2011 - 1:40 PM
Britain Doping Moynihan

FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2008 file photo, Colin Moynihan, the chairman of the British Olympic Association, speaks at a news conference in Sydney, Australia. Moynihan said Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011 that the global fight against doping is entering a

LONDON (AP) — The head of Britain's Olympic committee wants an independent review of the World Anti-Doping Agency, accusing the global body of failing to catch the worst offenders and dragging the fight against drug cheats into a "dark age."

"Never have the sanctions against the hard-line cheats been so weak since the end of the Cold War," British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan said Tuesday in a speech to international sports federation leaders.

Moynihan said only 59 of the world's 204 national Olympic committees are in compliance with WADA's anti-doping code, and that law-enforcement agencies — not WADA — were responsible for breaking up the major doping rings and prosecuting cases such as the BALCO scandal.

It was one of the harshest public attacks ever launched by a senior Olympic official against WADA, which was formed 10 years ago to unify anti-doping rules, sanctions and policies.

"It is understandable that many in sport have concluded that (WADA) has underachieved in the 10 years it has been operational," Moynihan said in Lausanne, Switzerland. "Not least because .... the system put in place by WADA has failed to catch the major drug cheats of our time.

"Marion Jones and countless others have flourished during the WADA era — isn't that enough to prompt an independent audit of the organization tasked with policing sport?"

Moynihan's strong words reflected his determination to defend the BOA's own tough anti-doping rule that bans British doping violators from the Olympics for life. The BOA bylaw has come under pressure since the Court of Arbitration for Sport threw out an IOC rule barring athletes who have received drug bans of more than six months from competing in the next Olympics.

"The time for a fundamental review of WADA, and what it has actually achieved, is long overdue," Moynihan said. "We now have a situation where drug cheats will be able to compete in London 2012. ... Anti-doping policy is entering a dark age."

The former British sports minister, who serves in the House of Lords, questioned WADA's banned substance list, describing it as "less than adequately based on science or logic."

Moynihan criticized WADA's "inflexible penalty system," which relies on two-year bans for a first doping offense, rather than harsher four-year sanctions. The two-year penalties, he said, allow cheats to escape without missing an Olympics.

"Regrettably, despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the 10 years since its creation, WADA has been unable to achieve its own, well intentioned, objectives," he said.

WADA said it had no immediate comment on Moynihan's remarks.

The IOC's "Rule 45," adopted in 2008, was deemed invalid by CAS last month on grounds that it amounts to a second punishment and is not part of the WADA code. The ruling cleared American 400-meter runner LaShawn Merritt, who completed a 21-month doping ban in July, to defend his Olympic title in London next year.

"Legal technicalities appear to have overriden moral scruples," Moynihan said, adding the CAS ruling means "convicted drug offenders will now be able to gatecrash the 2012 Olympics."

He said the IOC has offered "unequivocal support" to the BOA and its lifetime Olympic ban.

"Just as lawyers and doctors are struck off for the most serious of offenses, and never allowed to practice again, so the same should apply to the most heinous and reprehensible form of cheating in sport," Moynihan said.

Weighing a possible appeal of the BOA ban is sprinter Dwain Chambers, the former European 100-meter champion who served a two-year ban in the BALCO scandal and remains ineligible for the British Olympic team.

Moynihan said the BOA rule is consistent with EU and British law, distinguishes between inadvertent and deliberate doping, is backed by more than 90 percent of British athletes and offers a clear appeals process.

"The bylaw is fair, valid and enforceable," he said.

Since the rule on lifetime Olympic bans was introduced in 1992, it has been applied 32 times and successfully overturned 29 times on appeal for "mitigating circumstances," Moynihan said.

While some critics argue that drug cheats deserve a second chance, Moynihan said it is the clean athletes who suffer.

"We need to ask where in this case is the redemption for the clean athlete denied selection by a competitor who has knowingly cheated, taken the whole enchilada of drugs?" he said. "And what is worse, the cheat, possibly with a lifelong benefit of a course of growth hormones and other drugs, is back again."