WADA chief urges drug tainted sports to clean up
BEIJING (AP) Weightlifting, cycling and other sports with a history of drug scandals must clean up their acts or risk being barred from the Olympics, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency said Sunday.
WADA is monitoring these Olympics to assess whether athletes are complying with the agency's drug-testing code, WADA president John Fahey said in an interview with The Associated Press at the Olympic Village. It will issue its findings in November and share them with the International Olympic Committee, which may exclude from future games any sports that fail to comply.
"Some sports such as weightlifting have a pretty bad record, and that is demonstrated time and again with numerous athletes from that sport," Fahey said. "I think weightlifting understands, as cycling understands, that there is a huge risk for both those sports if the cheating is continued and continued to be exposed."
The entire 11-member Bulgarian weightlifting team was barred from the Beijing Olympics after testing positive for steroids, and 11 of Greece's 15 Olympic lifters also were excluded after failing pre-games tests. Several lifters were also caught during the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, while cycling has been roiled by scandals in recent years at the Tour de France and other races.
"There is no sport that anybody can suggest is doping free," Fahey said. "But there are some sports that have had a history, and I would suggest there's a ... culture (of doping) that has developed in some of those sports."
Fahey said he has discussed the problem with international weightlifting president Tamas Ajan, a member of WADA's board. He praised the federation for doing more testing between competitions to weed out cheaters ahead of the Olympics.
"I wouldn't isolate weightlifting," WADA director general David Howman added. "There are probably several sports who might fall under the same microscope."
The WADA code of testing and sanctions was formally adopted by the sports federations four years ago, on the eve of the Athens Olympics. However, not all federations have fully implemented the code, and now are under pressure to do so by November.
"Code compliance is essential for participation in any Olympics, summer or winter," Fahey said. "We will not hesitate, if there are a set of circumstances and facts and findings that lead to an outcome of noncompliance, to pass that on. It's up to the IOC after that."
Fahey also said WADA will continue to urge North American professional sports leagues - including Major League Baseball, the NHL, the NBA and NFL - to adopt the Olympic anti-doping program, including regular offseason testing. He praised the PGA Tour's decision to begin testing in golf.
"The door has remained open and always will," he said. "If the U.S. PGA can see the benefit, then there clearly must be something for the major professional sports in the United States."
Fahey lamented the spate of recent doping scandals that have ensnared such high-profile names as Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin and Floyd Landis, saying they have eroded the public's confidence in records and performances. Credibility will be on the line during the Beijing Olympics, where the IOC is conducting a record 4,500 drug tests and WADA is monitoring the system as an independent observer.
"You can see ... some cynicism and some credibility gap in the minds of the sporting public out there," Fahey said. "The challenge that we all have is to restore that confidence to the sporting public. These games will be a major test."