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Brussels, 15 November 1999
Science and sport: The Union and the IOC breathe new life into the fight against doping
Keywords: doping, research, sport, fraud
There is a need for improved methods of detecting the various types of doping practised by both amateurs and professionals, increased cooperation and monitoring of anti-doping laboratories, and better training for those involved in the fight against doping. These are some of the conclusions set out in a report on "Harmonising the ways and means of fighting doping in sport" which was presented today by the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to the European Commission.
Receiving the report officially this morning from Prince Alexandre de Mérode, the Chairman of the International Olympic Committee's Medical Commission, Philippe Busquin, the Commissioner for research, commented that, "The report's message is quite clear: scientific and technical progress is now spearheading the fight against doping by athletes. The Union is calling for more research, for this to be coordinated between the sporting world and the public authorities, and for a harmonised legal framework to be provided."
This report, a summary of which is appended, is the culmination of the "Hardop" research project that has received EUR 180 000 in European-Union support since 1998.
Research into doping
Research is a vital tool in the fight against doping, especially for the following two reasons:
- the credibility of the decisions taken and the sentences passed on cheats depends upon the reliability of the detection systems;
- modern doping techniques are constantly evolving and becoming more and more sophisticated. Detection methods must therefore keep pace.
This research forms part of the remit given the Commission by the Vienna European Council (December 1998) in order to coordinate the position of the Member States as regards the fight against doping.
Its background is particularly complex, not least because of the range of sporting disciplines and international practices, and the lack of harmonised laws in the countries concerned. Thus, the definition of doping may vary from one country to another, from one discipline to another, and even within a given discipline (depending, for example, on whether those involved are professionals or not). However, that complex situation has also resulted in a European political will: that of cooperation - or indeed harmonisation - in terms of the Member States' approach to the doping "epidemic".
Three other conferences were held before the meeting which has been taking place this weekend. These enabled a series of steps to be taken:
- the resources deployed throughout the world in the fight against doping to be surveyed (Brussels, November 1998);
- an inventory to be made of the action needed in order to make checks more effective, while at the same time tackling the question of legal penalties (Rome, March 1999);
- the ethical aspects of checks to be integrated with the release of their results, together with the role of the media (Toulouse, May 1999).
For further information, please contact:
Scientific Officer, Research DG
Press and Information Officer, Research DG
Fax: +32 2 295.82.20
The text of the report is available as PDF-file: hardop-en.pdf (765 Kb)
Summary of the "Hardop" report
Harmonising the ways and means of fighting against doping in sport
The Hardop project was carried out in 1998 and 1999 under the aegis of both the International Olympic Committee and the European Union. Its primary aim was to identify the essential research needed in order to combat doping in sport. To enable every aspect of that question to be tackled, all the players involved were consulted: representatives of sporting bodies, athletes, laboratory heads, journalists, etc. Organising three discussion forums and preparing targeted questionnaires have enabled the priorities for international cooperation in this area to be identified closely - in both structural and scientific terms.
The cooperation deficit among the various circles concerned and the lack of harmonisation (legislation, attitude of the sporting authorities, laboratory checking techniques, etc.) represent a major challenge to those who wish to eradicate doping in sport. That cooperation and that harmonisation cannot succeed unless a central body - together with an associated reference laboratory - is created and made responsible at an international level for the fight against doping.
That central organisation should play a major part in the research being conducted in an area where more and more sophisticated performance enhancers can only be identified if new techniques are developed. The interface between those specialist laboratories would be an accrediting organisation to be made responsible for proposing common rules (reference materials and certified substances, tests, quality checks, etc.). It would also be a key factor in harmonising procedures and criteria - without which the checking of performance enhancers will continue to be a hit-and-miss affair.
As far as research is concerned, that central organisation will also help to boost the scientific and technological watchdog function which, starting with basic research and cooperation with industry, will enable the worrying "advance" of the substances used to be stemmed.
It will also be a recognised link with the other circles involved in the doping problem - public authorities (particularly in terms of law harmonisation), the courts, police and customs authorities, sporting federations - and will foster cooperation among the various parties involved. It will also provide the driving force behind more intensive training (including that of doctors) and the dissemination of information - two areas that are currently deficient in many ways, especially in the world of athletes, the media and education.
The matter of doping in sport - which reflects a problem affecting a far wider society - is one of the priorities of the European Union's Fifth Framework Programme, which promotes research reflecting European public concern. The priorities highlighted by those involved in the project relate to medical research (effects of doping on health, new ways of measuring performance enhancers, training and information) and the scientific detection of fraud (measuring methods and instruments, reference materials and substances). These types of research are addressed by two of the Fifth Framework Programme's thematic programmes: "Quality of life and management of living resources" and "Competitive and sustainable growth". The European research projects supported by the Union could thus help to spearhead the fight against not only doping in sport but also the worrying situation of which it is merely a symptom.
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