Doping Detective Hunts for Drug Use in Sports
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Earlier today, I spoke with Richard Pound. He's the chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency. It oversees drug testing policy for Olympic sports, including cycling. I asked Pound for his reaction to this positive test.
Mr. RICHARD POUND (World Anti-Doping Agency): I found out about it today when I got back from holiday. The reaction is disappointment. It's a pretty serious indictment on the sport and then you look back and you think, this is not something that is confined to the folks in the middle or the back of the pack. This is affecting the ones at the very front. That's a mess.
NORRIS: Curious about how this could happen with increased scrutiny. I mean, I assume that these cyclists were tested every stage of this race. How is it that this could happen in a late stage?
Mr. POUND: Part of the problem is the way the UCI tests and we've always thought that there were major gaps in their testing protocols that allowed for the possibility of manipulation. We've done our best to bring this to their attention, but have had no reply to it. To some degree, you know, you find what you want to find and sometimes you don't find what you don't want to find.
NORRIS: Now, you've been mentioning the UCI. We should explain that that is the governing body for cycling. It's based in Switzerland. You've been very critical over time of the UCI. You say that they have not done enough to investigate drug use, particularly in pinning down allegations about Lance Armstrong. Does this add ammunition to your argument?
Mr. POUND: Yeah, I don't think there was any lack of ammunition to the argument. I think everybody, in fact, almost everybody but the UCI seemed to know there was a problem.
The way the UCI defines in competition means that independent agencies like WADA cannot test their riders reasonably close to the major competitions, which would be, of course, the time that you would be using these doping methods and have them come on stream. You know, they say that in competition, the Tour de France, for example, starts three days before the race. And if you're doing, you know, EPO boosting and things like that, that's when you would do it because you want your levels to be high during the race, not six months beforehand.
And they have what they call a health test, which is they do a blood test early in the morning. But then they go five or six hours without being supervised so there's all kinds of time to do, you know, the topping up of EPO or whatever else they may want to be using.
NORRIS: Do these cyclists need to be chaperoned?
Mr. POUND: I think they -
Mr. POUND: Once they've had these tests, they should be chaperoned. The same thing is true at the end of a race. If you're notified that you're required to be tested, you have up to an hour, unchaperoned, in which to present yourself for the testing. It invites manipulation. It's a bit like alcoholism, you know, unless they acknowledge that there's a problem, it's very hard to bring about a cure.
NORRIS: But Mr. Pound, as the Chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency, do you yourself bear some responsibility for this? Do you think well, maybe there was something else I could or should have done?
Mr. POUND: Oh, yeah. I think one is to try and get the leaders of the UCI to focus on this issue. Cycling knows what its problems are. They know who the riders are. They know where they're going for the doping methods. They know, if they want to, how to catch them. The real pressure for cleaning up and getting these codes of ethics in place for the riders are not coming from the UCI but from the teams. And the sponsors of the teams.
I think if they all stood up and said, now look here. We are not going to have our brands and reputations ruined because we got a whole bunch of athletes who are doped. And if there are any we want them out of here and we're going to withdraw our financial support if that doesn't happen. And we'll tell as many friends as we can that they should do the same thing.
NORRIS: Richard Pound, thank you very much for talking to us.
Mr. POUND: Pleasure as always.
NORRIS: Richard Pound is the chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees drug testing policy for Olympic sports.
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