Countering claims by certain interest groups that athletes oppose such anti-doping rules as four-year bans and the whereabouts system, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission Chair Claudia Bokel said today that all clean athletes welcomed stronger measures as a means to deter and punish cheats.
Speaking at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s 2013 World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg, South Africa, former Olympic fencer Bokel said that she understood the inconveniences athletes had to endure due to anti-doping procedures, but that these were a small price to pay considering the alternative.
“I didn’t like it,” said the Athens 2004 silver medallist, describing her initial reaction to the whereabouts rule. “I was clean and now had to say where I would be in the upcoming three months? As if I knew! I thought it was such a hassle. I then talked with many other athletes from many federations and I realised that if I didn’t do it … we would not be able to catch any dopers, and more importantly we wouldn’t keep any athletes from doping! It is not only about the amount of athletes who are caught, it is also about the deterrent effect for athletes to get caught through the whereabouts system.”
Over the course of her career, however, things gradually became better thanks to closer coordination between her International Federation and the National Anti-Doping Agency, which, working together, started to initiate changes that lessened the burden on clean athletes while at the same time making things harder on the cheats. Changes included the introduction of a centralised computer system used to track the whereabouts of athletes and integrate doping controls, and a requirement to identify only a single hour during a day for possible testing rather than a full 24 hours.
Still, while Bokel stated that she and the IOC Athletes’ Commission were in favour of the stronger measures being considered in the review of the WADA Code (a vote on which is scheduled for Friday), she also stressed that more needs to be done to ease the load on clean athletes.
“We cannot just provide this legal document (the WADA Code) to athletes,” she said. “We need to educate and inform them in an athlete-friendly way about the changes in the WADA Code and we need to explain to them what the implications are. We need to help the clean athletes to ensure they are as little burdened as possible. To do so we must share information between anti-doping organisations, prioritise the right technology for all those athletes who are providing their whereabouts, and strongly sanction those who are cheating, be it athletes or any member of their entourage.”Read the full speech here.