Dr Paul Wright: Drug-free sport is attainable
Athletics remains the number one watched sport in the Olympics. This fact will be questioned as the fans of the sport watch the build-up to the Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil this year.
Doping scandal after doping scandal has left some of the fans wondering 'just who is clean'.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has announced that the Swedish runner, Abeba Aregawi, has tested positive for the performance-enhancing substance meldonium and is provisionally banned from competition.
Aregawi was the Ethiopia World indoor 1500-metre champion who switched allegiance to Sweden after the 2012 Olympics. Her 'excuse' for the positive test is that she was given tablets by a doctor in Ethiopia that she thought was vitamins!
Thanks to whistle-blowers, we now know that doctors, coaches, drug testers and even those in charge of Anti-Doping Commissions have aided and abetted cheating in the sport of athletics.
The present head of the IAAF, Lord Sebastian Coe, is facing mounting criticism as he tries to clean up a sport that now seems destined for life support as major sponsors withdraw their support.
The United Kingdom Anti-Doping organisation (UKAD) was recently named as the body to oversee the anti-doping programme in Russia, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) appointed UKAD as the secretariat for the task force that will coordinate the fight against doping in the build-up to this summer's Olympics.
UKAD being investigated
We now hear that this same group is being investigated by a former assistant police chief constable in Britain, Mr Andy Ward.
This investigation became necessary as a British newspaper, the Sunday Times, published a report that alleges that a British doctor, Mark Bonar, had claimed that he provided numerous athletes, including Premier League footballers, England cricketers and Tour de France cyclists with banned substances such as EPO growth hormones and steroids.
Amazingly, the report also indicates that UKAD was given information about the activities some two years ago by an athlete who was trying to reduce possible sanction after failing to submit to a drug test when called upon to do so.
This whistle-blower even provided signed prescriptions for banned substances signed by the doctor, but alleges that UKAD refused to probe further, claiming that the accused physician was not associated with any organised sport.
Yes, UKAD, the same organisation selected to lead the fight against doping in sports leading up to the Summer Olympics this year!
It appears that anti-doping organisations around the world have very little interest in finding and announcing positive drug test results for the so-called icons of sports. We now know that credentials and expertise in anti-doping could also mean very little when a nation's credibility is at stake.
Lord Coe lamented publicly his disappointment at the absence of Russia from the World Indoor Championships, as he simultaneously held out hope that Russia could still send athletes to the Rio Olympics.
Kenya had dates for compliance with World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) directives repeatedly postponed seemingly in a desperate effort to have them compete in Rio.
The announcement that Ethiopia, Morocco, Ukraine, and Belarus are all on a list of countries not fully compliant with WADA's anti-doping code was quickly followed by assurances that these countries were not banned from competing in the Olympics.
The obvious question is: 'What on earth is going on?'
The call from British athlete, Paula Radcliffe, for drug testers to be allowed visa-free entry to countries where independent testing is scheduled (as the issuance of a visa will alert cheaters that the tester is coming) has not received any support from the authorities, including the new head of the medical and anti-doping commission of the IAAF, South African Harold Adams, who replaced Gabriel Dolle, who is now banned for bribing athletes to conceal positive results.
The answer to clean sports will only be achieved when those previously present when corruption was rife are removed and the selection of their replacements be removed from government appointees.
Drug-free sport is attainable. All that is needed is the will to make sports drug-free.