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Volume 10 No. 22
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Hangin' With ... World Anti-Doping Agency Director General David Howman

DAVID HOWMAN is the director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency. He took over his current position in Aug. '03. Prior to joining WADA, Howman served as chairman of the New Zealand Sports Drug Agency between '00-03. The Wellington, New Zealand native spoke with SBD Global about WADA's fight against doping in sports, difficulties in enforcing the World Anti-Doping Code and why a doping-free future might be only a dream.

On the fight against doping…
David Howman: Anti-doping has come a long way in the past 15 years. Since WADA was formed, we have seen the implementation of consistent anti-doping rules and regulations across all countries and all sports throughout the world. The first ever World Anti-Doping Code was implemented in 2004, and there are now over 660 signatories committed to this rulebook. The UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport allowed governments of the world to recognize and accept the code by way of international treaty, and was ratified in record time. This treaty, which 176 countries -- or 98% of the world’s population -- have signed, has allowed national governments to introduce measures to help rid their societies of doping. It has been hugely important. There is the annual List of Prohibited Substances and Methods, which WADA has been responsible for since the introduction of the code, and is well recognized by the anti-doping community globally. The approach to anti-doping has also evolved rapidly in these 15 years. We are increasingly seeing cheats brought to account not through traditional scientific testing, but through what we call “non-analytical” approaches such as investigations. We have moved away from just looking at a culture of deterrence by exploring preventative measures, too. Education and athlete awareness are now staple parts of anti-doping culture.

On sports’ susceptibility to doping…
Howman: Some sports have been more susceptible to doping in the past than others, but no sport and no country is immune. Sport today is a hugely lucrative business and the prizes for coming top are so great that some athletes feel they should do anything to get there. Cheating exists in all types of society, and it is our role at WADA to try and make sure we protect the vast majority of athletes -- the clean athletes -- by coordinating and promoting anti-doping measures that will bring those cheating to account. We do this through the code. We do this through the prohibited list which is updated annually. We do this through scientific and social science research and through our strong relationship with the pharmaceutical industry so that both WADA and pharmaceutical companies are alert to what substances doping athletes might be abusing. But, increasingly, we are putting our energy into preventative measures such as athlete awareness and education. We attend the major international sporting events and make sure athletes and their entourages are alerted to what their rights and responsibilities are when it comes to anti-doping. We have educational tools and initiatives in place to ensure that the young -- the athletes of tomorrow -- do not make the same mistakes as some athletes do today.

On the difficulties of enforcing the code…
Howman: The great thing about the code is it has brought consistency to anti-doping rules to virtually every corner of the world. Before WADA, and before the code, that was simply not the case. There are always challenges in different parts of the world, as different countries have their own different national rules, however they must all be compliant with the code. That is where the UNESCO Convention has been so useful -- as it has helped national governments integrate anti-doping regulations into their own structures. WADA works closely with stakeholders to ensure they have the ability to put in place effective anti-doping programs. Collaborating with both international federations from the sport side, and National Anti-Doping Organizations on the public authorities side, is a high priority for WADA at the moment as we implement the revised code and ensure that all rules and laws are compliant. We always endeavor to be fully transparent, and I think that is evidenced by initiatives such as the consultative review process we had leading up to the revised code last year. We asked stakeholders for their views over a two-year period and received over 4,000 ideas for changes. That was a good exercise in collaboration and transparency. Another example would be our testing figures, which were released only recently and offer global figures on positive and negative findings and help give the anti-doping community a big picture view of the state of testing.

On upcoming challenges…
Howman: Currently, our big focus is ensuring all anti-doping organizations are comfortable with the changes they need to make for the forthcoming revised version of the code. That is essential. Once introduced, our energies will be put to ensuring it is implemented and practiced successfully and, importantly, that all organizations comply with the rules. The rules are better than they have ever been, so we need to ensure they are practiced correctly and effectively. The athlete entourage is going to be a crucial area for anti-doping. We are discovering more and more that behind each doper is a coach, a physician, a doctor or others who may be well versed in encouraging that athlete to dope. With doping cases in the past, we have seen that there is often an unscrupulous support team encouraging an athlete to take short cuts. Naively the athlete agrees, and so one of the things we have said with the revised code is that these support personnel must be included in anti-doping sanction processes, too.

On a doping-free future…
Howman: Cheating exists in all parts of society, and I think it would be naive to assume that no athletes would take shortcuts, particularly with the rewards at stake and sport as competitive as it is today. However, WADA has to make sure that the vast majority of athletes are represented -- those that are clean -- so that they are rewarded through their hard work and fair approach to sport. We also have a responsibility to ensure the athlete’s health comes first. If we did not, we would not be sending the right message to society. On the other hand, as with other parts of society there will always be those who take shortcuts to succeed. Our task is to limit that number.

Hangin' With runs each Friday in SBD Global.