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London 2012 Will See Fewer Doping Offenders, WADA President Says

There will be fewer athletes using drugs to cheat at this year’s London Olympics than ever because of improvements in testing programs, said John Fahey, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“There will be less cheats in London than in any other Games, because they now know they are likely to get caught, more than in any other time in history,” Fahey said in an interview in Lausanne today.

WADA was founded in 1999 as an international independent agency, funded by governments and the International Olympic Committee. The Lausanne, Switzerland-based group monitors the World Anti-Doping Code, which knits together anti-doping policies of countries around the world. The code currently has 193 signatories and will be reviewed in 2013.

WADA’s anti-doping program was first used at the Athens Games.

“That was only in 2004,” Fahey said. “The anti-doping program was much better in Beijing, because we have learned so much in those four years. And in the four years since the Beijing Games, we’ve learned so much more again. We are better now than in 2008.”

In the 2004 Games in Athens, 3,667 tests were administered, and 26 doping cases were recorded, which included not just failed tests but also violations of rules such as not showing up for examination or not providing proper specimens for testing, the International Olympic Committee said.

Athletes and Horses

Four years later in Beijing, there were 4,770 samples taken, with 14 athletes and 6 horses found in violation of the rules, the IOC said.

There are now 33 WADA accredited laboratories, which collected 258,267 samples in 2010. That compares to 154,000 in 2003. London 2012 organizers said last month some 6,250 samples will be analyzed during the Games, which start July 27.

Samples are kept in cold storage in the WADA laboratory in Lausanne for eight years, giving drug testers the opportunity to re-analyze them in case a new performance-enhancing drug or technique comes along. WADA is also working on a test to detect blood transfusions, as well as an improved test to find human growth hormone. It didn’t say when those will be ready.

Despite the improvements in testing, professional sports will never be completely drugs-free, Fahey said.

“I don’t think you’ll ever get a clean Olympic Games because human nature will always attempt to get an unfair advantage that will give them that little edge that their own physical attribute won’t give them,” Fahey said.

Cycling Violations

Fahey’s comments come a day after the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador’s claim that he failed a drug test because he consumed a contaminated steak, and banned him for two years. Contador was also stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title, just like American cyclist Floyd Landis in 2006.

“Cycling had a very bad record going back ten years or so ago,” Fahey said. “They have at least stopped denying the problem, and worked with a program to deal with the problem. Have they got rid of cheats in cycling? I don’t know that we’ve got rid of cheats in any sports. But there are certainly a whole lot less cheats in cycling today then there was five years ago, and certainly ten years ago.”

Fahey said WADA is seeking some additional funding from pharmaceutical companies or international sporting bodies after the agency’s annual budget of around $28 million was frozen last year.

“Money does assist greatly in the fight against doping,” said Fahey, a former finance minister in Australia. “But we all accept there is a tough world out there economically.”

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