The idea to create the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was a good one, particularly for international sports. It meant that rogue states like the USA, which had a track record of going soft on their own athletes who tested positive, could be forced to implement universal sanctions.
The big problem with WADA is that it is a monopoly. And it is being run increasingly like one, currently under the Presidency of our own ex-politician John Fahey.
WADA’s aim should be to stamp out cheating in sport. This is quite difficult to do, as the cheats are usually very clever. WADA instead is trying to maximise scalps of athletes who “test positive for drugs”, without apparent concern for whether they are actually cheating.
Instead of concentrating only on the genuinely performance-enhancing (and usually difficult-to-detect) drugs, the WADA banned list is ever-expanding. It now includes commonly used medications which are much easier to detect and “might conceivably” be used for performance-enhancing in rare circumstances. Whether these rare circumstances exist when an athlete tests positive don’t seem faze WADA, as there is a presumption of guilt rather than innocence.
Banned medications now include asthma puffers and cortisone injections, which are generally considered by doctors and scientists to not be performance-enhancing. Intravenous fluids, including those given for an anaesthetic as part of surgery, are now also banned as of 2008.
The status quo is now the farcical situation that the vast majority of athletes are breaking the WADA code whenever they go in for elective surgery. In theory, the only thing stopping these athletes from being suspended is that drug testers aren’t (yet) following them into hospitals.
An editorial just published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that in the last five years of drug testing in tennis, it was accepted that 68% of the players who were banned for positive drug tests were not actually cheating. They were banned presumably because WADA wanted to increase their tally of convictions.
They include cases such as known asthmatics taking puffers such as Ventolin for asthma attacks, but whose “permits” to treat their asthma with appropriate medication had either recently expired or been faxed to the wrong number.
In 2009, WADA has plans that asthmatics should apply to a panel to “prove” they have asthma, or else they will be banned from sport for using their puffers. The Howard government basically held the funding gun to the head of all Australian sports in 2005 and forced them to sign up to WADA, despite many sports fearing the situation we are now in. This being that the universal drug code has become draconian and the sports have signed away all rights to do anything about it.