Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

David Howman, President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) poses for a photograph at their head office in Montreal in this November 5, 2009 file photograph. (CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/Reuters)
David Howman, President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) poses for a photograph at their head office in Montreal in this November 5, 2009 file photograph. (CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/Reuters)

WADA, British Olympic Association continue to spar over lifetime ban stance Add to ...

World Anti-Doping Agency director general David Howman kicked the anti-doping ball back to the British Olympic Association, saying the BOA has until a WADA foundation board meeting May 18 to rescind its lifetime ban of drug cheats from the Games.

“If the law hasn’t been changed by then... we’d report it to the IOC (International Olympic Committee) accordingly,” Howman said in a telephone conference Tuesdsay.

The BOA needs to be compliant with WADA’s international anti-doping conventions, signed by 175 member nations, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s rejection of the British Olympic Association’s hard-line policy to keep drug cheats out of future Games.

Howman said the BOA had wasted much money - more than $162,000 - in a failed bid to defend its position before the Lausanne (Switzerland)-based supreme court of international sport. A three-member CAS panel said Monday the BOA’s lifetime Olympic Games ban of first-time drug cheats who had already served two-year suspensions - such as sprinter Dwain Chambers and cycle racer David Millar - amounted to a second punishment for the same offence.

Howman said lifetime bans were “impossible for a first offence.... If you look at the code, they are already in the code for second or third offences. For a first offence, there’s not one human rights lawyer or sport lawyer in the world who would suggest it.”

Howman said in an Associated Press report that WADA had warned the BOA, before it made its case before the CAS, that the BOA’s hard-line against doping contravened WADA’s code and conventions. which prevent an offender being punished twice for one offence.

“What we’ve got to do is say ‘life goes on. The process has ended and we have to treat all our stakeholders to same way’,” Howman said. Under current rules, WADA’s penalties for first-time positive doping findings can be as little as a warning and up to four years for serious circumstances, he said. No exceptions are made for individual national Olympic committees to administer lifetime punishments. He said the primacy of WADA rules over national Olympic committee’s had been established. “Both the BOA and IOC were original signatories to the whole WADA setup,” he said.

“If you look back to the days before WADA, the International Amateur Athletics Federation had a four-year ban and (courts) it was determined it was a restrain of trade,” Howman said. “You’ve got to sit back and look at reality rather than look with emotion.” Because of harmony of anti-doping regulations, gone are the days, he said, where an athlete banned in one country could compete for another one.

In 2003, Chambers tested positive to the banned designer steroid THG. He was banned from competition for two years, but track officials allowed him to serve out his penalty and Chambers returned to win a medal at the world indoor championships. However, the BOA policy denied him selection to an Olympic squad. Millar similarly was suspended for a positive finding for the banned blood booster EPO.

A similar 2008 ban imposed by the International Olympic Committee, which barred athletes who had served drug suspensions of more than six months from competing at the Olympics, was thrown out by the CAS last fall as “invalid and unenforceable.”

“It's like sentencing someone to a term of imprisonment, say six months, and when they get out saying ‘sorry, in 12 months you'll have to go back for another month because we just don't think that was good enough’,” Howman said in a New Zealand radio interview.

Chambers will press his case for inclusion in the British Olympic team. British athletics officials and London Olympics organizing committee chief Lord Sebastian Coe have criticized the CAS decision as an intrusion on Britain's selection autonomy. But Howman said the CAS made the correct ruling.

“Therefore the British Olympic (Association) failed totally in their appeal ... wasted, I have to say, hundreds of thousands of pounds which could have been spent in a far more fruitful fashion.

“I think Lord Coe and, with respect, all the others in Britain who came out so forcefully in support of the rule should have actually thought a second time before they opened their mouths,” Howman said.

Howman said WADA had opposed the British rule because it was necessary in the fight against doping to ensure consistency across all jurisdictions. He said it could not be argued that WADA was weak on doping.

Doping has been a scourge for generations on the Olympic and amateur fronts, said Canadian track hall of famer Charmaine Crooks. “Someone like Bruny Surin can hold his head high for succeeding as a clean athlete. I was affected in a different way. In some systems in the 1980s, there was systemic doping. We changed that,” said Crooks, an Olympic medal-winning 400-metre runner who was the first athlete on the WADA foundation board. “It (doping) has become more sophisticated. We’re still talking about it.”

BOA chairman Colin Moynihan has criticized WADA, saying the Montreal-based anti-doping body has failed to catch some of the biggest drug cheats. Nevertheless, the CAS ordered the British Olympic body to pay some of the costs WADA had run up in presenting its own side -- and said the BOA policy was inordinately punitive.

Meanwhile, world indoor champion Justin Gatlin of the United States, who has returned to racing after his own doping suspension, said he would welcome back a runner like Chambers.

“He is still my competitor... He should not be punished twice,” Gatlin said. “I understand the stress he has been through... the embarrassment and being ashamed, but also the strength for him to hold his head up.”