Origins of the Anti-Doping Code: A very short history
Doping Ė the use of performance enhancing substances by professional
athletes. It is a subject that has been discussed often in professional cycling,
going back to the early days of the sport. The UCI (Union Cicliste International
- the international cycling federation) has been the most aggressive
international sports federation in the fight against doping, testing its
professional cyclists, and others, in and out of competition for many years,
funding research and developing its own tests.
The UCI began testing its professional athletes at the World Championships in
the mid-1960ís, as did FIFA, the international football (soccer) federation.
Drug testing at the Olympics was introduced in the late 60ís.
The UCI was the first international federation to introduce an EPO
(erythropoietin, a product that increases hemoglobin levels) detection method in
April 2001, and in the next few months carried out 560 blood tests (176 at the
Classics, 36 at the Tour de Romandie and 348 at the Giro) with six positive test
results. In recent years the UCI has overseen approximately 5500 tests of
professional cyclists annually.
But, back in 1998 at the Tour de France, what is now called "The Festina
Affair" changed, maybe forever, the image of pro cycling.
For those who might not be aware, just before the 1998 Tour de France began,
the Festina teamís director and doctor came under investigation for systematic
doping within the team. This was after large quantities of performance-enhancing
substances were discovered during a French border check of an official Tour de
France team car driven by a Festina team staff member.
That yearís Tour was a maelstrom. Festina staff were arrested. Other teamsí
riders and staff were detained by police. Hotels and team vehicles were
searched. Some riders very publicly and acrimoniously accused others of doping.
Others protested the local investigatory procedures, which they considered
harassment - a stage was delayed by riders in protest, there was a "go-slow"
protest in another, with riders removing their bib numbers and linking arms
coming across the finish. Race officials cancelled one stage and invalidated the
results of another.
The entire Festina team was ejected from the race, the Festina team manager
himself stating that administration of performance-enhancing substances was
carried out in the team: "The object was to optimize performances under strict
medical control, in order to avoid cyclists personally and uncontrollably
supplying themselves under conditions that could be bad for their health."
Six teams eventually withdrew from the Tour in protest of the conditions - on
and on it went.
The judicial trials resulting from the Festina Affair of course continued
into the next year and beyond. That next spring, even the French cycling
federation president and vice president, and the Tour de France director, were
detained by the police and charged, only to have charges dropped by mid-year. In
fact, it was not until the spring of 2002 that an appeals court finally absolved
the UCI of all charges alleging tolerance of doping, viewed as complicity in the
Festina Affair. The repercussions of these events, in many, many respects, have
But something else happened as result of this scandal. In February 1999 a
world anti-doping conference was held in Lausanne, Switzerland, by the
International Olympic Committee (IOC). That in turn led to the establishment in
November 1999 of an organization known as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA),
which formulated in June 2002 an international anti-doping code for professional
athletes. Which brings us to today.
The WADA Code
The WADA, instituted to promote fair play and a drug-free international
sports environment, is charged by the IOC with being fully functional as an
anti-doping agency by the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. The WADA
anti-doping code is in its third working version, and the final version of the
code will be released on the WADA
website on 20 February 2003.
The code delineates the standards for testing, the sanctions and proceedings
in the case of a positive doping control, as well as the requirements of member
organizations. The most recent draft, as well as all previous drafts, can be
found on the WADA website
here (NB: Version 3 is 51 pages in length).
The first week of March the WADA will hold its World Conference on Doping in
Sport in Copenhagen, Denmark, to allow all member organizations to consider and
adopt the WADA Code. Government representatives will also be present;
governments have the responsibility of implementing the code in their countries
through appropriate legislation and policy.
The UCI and the Code
In the process of formulating its final anti-doping code, the WADA solicited
comments from its member organizations and stakeholders (national and
international sports federations, national anti-doping agencies, national
Olympic committees and governments). Many international sports federations have
weighed in, including the fencing, air sports, hockey, motorcycling, aquatics,
skiing, rowing and archery federations, to name a few. But none have contributed
to the code as the UCI has.
The UCI submitted a nearly 80 page annotated document to WADA, proposing code
language and including 30 pages of practical and philosophic comments. Among
these UCI comments are a few very significant disagreements with the wording
and/or spirit of the Anti-Doping Code, specifically on ensuring that the code is
evenly enforced across all sporting disciplines, redundancy of testing
(harmonization), and the sanctions for athletes who test positive in a doping
test (called a "control"). The Daily Peloton contacted UCI President Mr. Hein
Verbruggen for his comments on these and other points.
Mr. Verbruggen: "The UCI, personally, through our legal department, has, very
actively, contributed to this WADA code. I myself was a member of the WADA
Council and the WADA Executive Board until the 31st of December. And the fact
that I stopped doing that has to do just with too much work, and has nothing,
but nothing, to do with the fact that I would not continue to support WADA.
"On the contrary, you know we as a sport have already been confronted for
many, many years with the doping problem, and I think that we are the leading
federation in the fight against doping; I think that is also recognized by
neutral observers within WADA. As a matter of fact, they are even hiring people
from us now, to move to WADA, and I think that has something to do with the fact
that they know how knowledgeable, perhaps unfortunately, we are in this respect.
"I have always understood, as an international federation, that no
international federation is able, not even the IOC, to solve the doping problem,
or at least to find adequate solutions to minimize the doping problem, as long
as you donít have an active cooperation with government.
"That is, international federations can control, they can sanction, but
everything that is in the environment, like suppliers, and trafficking and so
on, has to be tackled by government. And also the part of the sport that is not
under our jurisdiction, for instance, health centers, body building clubs, and
so on, well, that has to be done by government. In addition to that, you need
governments, for instance, for restrictions imposed on the pharmaceutical
industry, or if you consider that marking of certain pharmaceutical products
would be a good solution, then you need governments to put that into law.
"So Iíve always been extremely in favor of the code, and I think the 1998
Festina scandal Ė if it was a big huge blow for cycling Ė at the same time
something good came out of that, and that was the anti-doping conference in
1999, as well as the foundation of WADA. So there should be no question about
the code Ė I fully support it because the advantages of the code outweigh what I
consider to be a couple of disadvantages."
"We know what it means to controlÖ"
"There are two points of disagreement as far as we are concerned, and I think
it has to do with our experience. We know what it means to control. There are a
lot of people who donít know that, even national anti-doping agencies; a lot of
federations have very limited experience in the practice of control. In
my opinion, the complications you will encounter in controlling are far bigger
than most people would expect.
"Every positive case is contested; it meets objections from the guy or girl
who is positive. That means that your procedures have to be absolutely
beyond any doubt, they have to be very strict, they have be done by experienced
people. The smallest mistake will be used as a possibility to object.
"This code is written by mainly by USADA people [the U.S. Anti-Doping
Agency], by Mr. Richard Young, and this code is made extremely detailed,
extremely detailed Ė it is done as you do it in America. In America, if you
arrest somebody, for instance, you have to say, ĎThese are your rights, youíre
entitled to have your lawyer, this is the Constitution.í" [Mr. Young is a member
of the WADA Anti-Doping Code Project Team]
"We donít have that in Europe, but now, that has been written in the code,
all these very, very strict rules, and it means in fact that if a guy is
controlled, and the controller has forgotten to give his name or to show his
identification, it is already a reason to escape. And there are dozens of those
kinds of things if you look at the detail; itís very, very detailed.
"So, the point is, there are two major problems that I see. The first one is
harmonization - we wanted harmonization, and that means that if you look at the
situation now in sports, the cyclists can only be controlled by the
international federations and the national federations and we can delegate that
to national Olympic committees in certain cases. That is very clear. All
cyclists in the world are controlled with the same rules, but under the
code, the out-of-competition testing can be done by four different entities with
their own procedures.
"I am afraid we will not obtain the harmonization we were targeting for.
Initially the code proposed eight different agencies that could do out of
competition testing. And we brought it back, we insisted on that, we brought it
back to four, but now, if an American athlete is next year in Athens, and itís
one week before the Games, so itís an out of competition control, on one day he
can be controlled by four different bodies. And they insisted on this Ė because,
you have to understand that it was written by USADA, and USADA, now they see the
possibility to go and control all over the world, and itís the same for other
national anti-doping agencies Ė but they donít see the complications.
"And they have brought in WADA now as a clearinghouse Ė they say to avoid
double controlling and triple controlling Ė which we in cycling have had
regularly over the last years. For instance, the Tour de France starts in France
and thereís UCI controls, the French government controls. We come into Belgium.
The Belgian government controls, the Flemish and the Walloon, the WADA will
control, and so that is what we wanted to avoid. That was one of the objections
of the code.
"What you see practiced now is that they have institutionalized that, they
have legalized that. So itís going to be difficult. Using the example of the
American athlete in Athens, he can be controlled by his international
federation, he can be controlled by WADA, he can be controlled probably by the
IOC [International Olympic Committee] on that occasion, he can be controlled by
his national anti-doping agency from America and the national anti-doping agency
from Greece. You can go look at the code on the internet and you can see that."
The Ramifications of WADA Sanctions on Cyclists
In spite of persuasive arguments by the UCI, the final version of the WADA
code will specify that the sanction for an athlete for a first positive doping
offense is two years suspension. The sanction for a second offense is a lifetime
Mr. Verbruggen: "Now, my second objection has always been the sanctions. I am
not against sanctions. Iím surely not. But these sanctions are unfair
for our athletes. It is because they made a mistake, but the WADA have put in
two years minimum [as a sanction]. And the two years minimum Ė Iím not against a
minimum, but if you take a minimum sanction of two years, that sanction, for
certain sports, means not only a minimum, itís immediately a maximum because
the athlete canít make it back to the sport.
"The rehabilitation idea is in all laws, all over the world. You make a
mistake, a serious mistake Ė a doping offense is serious Ė but there is always
something in there that a person has the right to repair his mistakes. Itís the
same if youíre a thief; they donít give you a life sentence for that. You can
make it back to society and improve yourself. The rehabilitation idea is very,
very important. And therefore, in most laws, for most offenses, you have in the
law a minimum and a maximum. And the judge will decide what is reasonable.
"Let me give you an example: if we say speeding is sanctioned with taking
your driving license Ė and the law says, minimum one month, maximum a year Ė I
give this as an example only. Well, this one month has a much greater
consequence for a taxi driver than the one year for a billionaire who can take a
chaffeur. So it is not the sanction, it is the consequences of the
sanction that are important.
"And in the case of the minimum of two years, the UCI has been opposed
because 80% of the cyclists, or more, will not make it back Ė they are
out for life. We take away their job for life. And therefore Iím against the two
"And at the same time, if there is a shooter, a shooter doesnít lose a job
because itís not a professional sport. He can continue to practice. If heís been
found positive, heís out for two years, he can continue to practice Ė he might
even be a police agent who practices shooting anyhow Ė and after two years he
can take up his sport again and become a world champion again. He hasnít lost
any income. And he can continue because he has a sports career of thirty years,
perhaps. Whereas a cyclist, he has a sports career of ten years. If you give him
two years, if ever he can make it back, and thatís questionable, itís 20%
of his sporting career."
Daily Peloton: Exactly, and we can see that, regardless of the facts in
Pantaniís case, there is a great question as to whether he will be able to
regain his form.
Mr. Verbruggen: "Yes. Pantani is a clear example Ė he has been very affected,
he is depressed, and he has never made it back. And he has never been found
positive, in addition to that."
Harmonization: "A very weak argumentÖ"
The WADA website states: "During its first years of existence WADA has
reached agreements with 34 International Sports Federations governing Olympic
summer and winter sports to conduct unannounced, out-of-competition tests. The
Agency strives to develop a harmonized universal anti-doping code by the Olympic
Games of 2004 in Athens. Sports outside the scope of the Olympic Movement are
still a problem, however. Professional sports, notably major leagues in the
United States, operate under their own anti-doping rules, which are often not as
strict as those upheld by WADA."
Last week the internet news site The Australian published parts of a
letter from Mr. Verbruggen to Mr. Richard Pound, Chairman of the WADA Executive
Committee. The article is
here. The Daily Peloton also asked Mr. Verbruggen about this letter.
Mr. Verbruggen: "My letter to Pound of two weeks ago was because that with
the very weak argument that American professional leagues are not under the
jurisdiction of an international federation, they do not control these players
and they do not sanction them. Yes, they get two years, but the two years in
practice means for them only the competitions or games that are under the
jurisdiction of international federations, and they only do that once every
four years Ė the Olympic games!
"So I say, hey, wait a moment Ė here we go, to Athens. In Athens we have two
athletes that test positive, an American professional cyclist, and an American
professional basketball player. The American cyclist is two years out of his job
- in the same games Ė he is positive, two years out of his job. And the American
basketball player just goes home and continues to play.
"And the argument is, ĎWell, we donít have any jurisdiction over him.í Then
donít have him compete in the Olympic games! And secondly, I think the argument
that we donít have any jurisdiction over them is ridiculous because the American
government is in WADA, and the American government has always given hell
Ė look at Mr. Barry McCaffrey [Director of the US Office of National Drug
Control under the Clinton Administration.] Ė to the IOC and to the federation
that we should put our house in order. Well, let the American government go
after those athletes. If they are not in the international basketball
federation, then the government can put them under their jurisdiction. The
government can control them, the government can sanction them Ė thereís
absolutely no problem.
"And then they should they should have the two years too, huh? This is an
incredibly weak attitude and that was the point Ė Iíve only seen The
Australian, but it was correct the way I was quoted there. I think The
Australian must have gotten the letter, because I sent a number of copies to
a number of people. He [the reporter] quoted the letter properly.
"I havenít received any answer from WADA. But Iím very curious, because Mr.
Richard Young, who wrote the code Ė as a matter of fact I discussed it with him
Ė this was no surprise [to him]. I discussed it with him. I said, ĎRichard, are
you really, really proposing that kind of discrimination between an American
cyclist and an American basketball player?í And he looked at me and he said, ĎAh
well, yeah, thatís the consequences.í And I said, ĎThen youíre going to have a
letter from me,í and he said, ĎI can understand.í This is what has happened."
Daily Peloton: The WADA website states that the final version of the code
wonít be released until the 20th of February. However, on February 5th
Mr. Pound stated that there wonít be any further material changes to the code
from the most recent working draft. So, the code stands now. And thatís
unfortunate, because that means the UCIís recommendations, which are quite
extensive, basically are not going to amount to anything.
Mr. Verbruggen: "Well, we have been able to change some things but they want
to push through the two years. What Iím very, very curious about now is what
they are going to do with the professional athletes, because this is of course
pretty hypocritical, whatís happening. And that is why I brought this point now.
And Iím happy that in fact itís been picked up by the press. Itís amazing that
WADA dares to do this. Itís absolutely amazing. But on the other hand, there
will be government representatives at Copenhagen that will address this point."
Daily Peloton: Thereís also a timetable in terms of the WADA code because it
needs to be implemented by 2004 for the Athens Games.
Mr. Verbruggen: "The Olympic movement and the president of the IOC have been
pretty strong about this, that it should be implemented by governments at the
same time as by the Olympic movement. And I think that is a very reasonable
point. It doesnít make any sense to do it differently, in my opinion."
Daily Peloton: But is this timetable realistic?
Mr. Verbruggen: "I hope it is, because even if thereís a couple of points
that bring us problems in the future, I think the code is something that is
precious, it is valid, of high value for the world of sports."
Problem, What Problem?
Perhaps as a result of the Festina affair, the perception that pro cycling is
"doping-ridden" is routinely carried through the national and international
sports press. However, even with approximately 2000 UCI-registered elite male
cyclists, 5500 tests per year by the UCI with less than two dozen positives per
year (and this is not counting WADA, national anti-doping and other agency
testing) belies this idea. It is much more likely that precisely because
professional cyclists are tested so often, the sport has a "reputation." Mr.
Mr. Verbruggen: "I am particularly interested in the code, because then also
WADA will see what other sports do in these terms. Until now, it often is the
case that when I talk with colleagues from other federations, I have had
comments like, ĎJesus, Hein, you have serious problems with this doping,í and I
would say to them, ĎWhat about you?í
"And they would say, ĎWell, fortunately we donít have the problem.í And then
I would say, ĎDo you control?í And they would say, ĎWe donít control because we
donít have the problem.í
"And that is something that WADA will start doing. They will see. Youíve seen
that over the years. Other federations, theyíve never done any blood controls.
They have never done any EPO controls Ė we have done EPO controls for three
years now. We have validated a process ourselves. We do these controls. Now, the
International Athletic Federation, Iím not supposed to say this, but they
started to do EPO controlling just five months ago and they had immediately two
world champions. With EPO."
Daily Peloton: Itís ironic that cycling is tested so thoroughly and cyclists
are tested so often, and I was going to make the point that if you test, youíll
get positives, if you donít test youíll never get positives.
Mr. Verbruggen: "Of course. If cycling has a doping problem, it also
has an anti-doping policy. And this was set already, six, seven, eight years
ago. And the thing is, if you test, you find. If you donít test, you donít find.
And this is not something Iím just saying Ė many people have said, ĎAt least
they test in cycling,í and also the riders want to test, you know; so this is
"But you have seen comments from the Williams sisters recently; they say,
ĎHey, wait a moment, doping control,í and so on, and you have seen recently that
the United States Athletic Federation didnít reveal the names of people who were
positive before SydneyÖ"
So it will indeed be interesting to see what throes other sports disciplines
undergo in the next eighteen months as the WADA code is fully implemented in
preparation for the Athens Games.
In spirit, while no one can dispute the value of a code that promotes
fairness in sport by strenuously enforcing the ethics of professional athletes
(the WADA code, as do many professional cycling teams, lays enormous
responsibility at the feet of athletes to be responsible for the products they
use), the points Mr. Verbruggen discusses are a potential sword of Damocles for
However, the UCI made its first appeal to governments to face the challenge
of doping in sport, not in the 90ís, not in the 80ís, but in 1967 in the Le
Monde Cicliste cycling journal. And they have not stopped since. So
regardless of your own opinion about doping in this sport, it is clear that pro
cycling will continue to be at the forefront of the fight.
A comprehensive history of the UCIís forty years of anti-doping activities
can be found in Acrobat format
Thanks to Mr. Hein Verbruggen and the following sources: UCI, WADA, USADA,
Playclean.org, Cycling4All, Le Tour, International Herald Tribune, BBC, The
Australian, Sports Illustrated.