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12 December 2012 | PR 12/223
Loughborough research backs WADA’s stance on drugs in sport
Professor Barrie Houlihan
The British government will be encouraged to introduce anti-doping legislation for sport following research by Loughborough University academics.
A study by Professor Barrie Houlihan and Dr Borja García, from Loughborough’s Sport Policy and Management Research Group, found that countries with legislation specific to performance enhancing drugs (PEDS) were better equipped to combat doping in sport.
The research was commissioned by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency).
It showed that countries with PEDS-specific legislation are more likely to cover the full WADA list of banned substances, and their National Anti-Doping Organisations are more likely to have a role in deciding whether to launch an investigation, as well as share information with Interpol.
Professor Houlihan says WADA who, along with the International Olympic Committee, have been pressing the British government to introduce specific legislation for PEDS in sport, will continue to push them to change their policy as a result of their research.
The study found that 18 of the 51 countries who replied to the Loughborough survey had legislation specific to PEDS.
While Britain has been at the forefront of the fight against PEDS, they, like 21 countries in the survey, including USA, Canada and Belgium, rely on general drugs and medicines legislation which ‘substantially’ covers the banned substances on the WADA list.
Professor Houlihan says the research provides WADA with the evidence they need to encourage more countries to introduce specific legislation.
He said: “WADA will promote specific legislation as the route to take.
“WADA was already encouraging countries to introduce specific legislation. What it asked us to do was to see whether there was evidence that this was having a positive effect.
“And we found that it was effective, particularly in raising the profile of the issue of PEDS trafficking, so this gave encouragement to WADA to push in that direction.
“It may be that in some countries the substances on the WADA list are covered by other legislation, and you could argue there is no need for specific legislation, except specific legislation would signal the increased importance of tackling this kind of trafficking.”
Professor Houlihan said the research followed WADA’s decision to expand their focus beyond testing athletes to stopping the suppliers with the introduction in 2009 of a more ambitious anti-doping code.
He said: “Its aim was to move the focus away from simply testing athletes and move ‘upstream’. They wanted to tackle the people who are manufacturing illegal drugs, trafficking them into countries and then supplying them to athletes.
“That was a major change. It moved the focus out of the laboratory to a much more investigative strategy. On the back of that, there was a realisation that what would help in moving ‘upstream’ was having stronger laws, particularly laws which addressed the manufacturing and trafficking of PEDS.
“Some of the drugs on WADA’s prohibited list are covered by ordinary recreational drugs legislation, cocaine for example.
“But there are quite a few PEDS, steroids in particular, which are easy to manufacture and whose importation is generally not so tightly controlled or investigated.
“So WADA attempted to encourage countries to introduce specific legislation to tackle the manufacture, trafficking and supply of PEDS.
“We looked to identify which countries had specific legislation, and then tried to assess what impact it had on their capacity to deal with doping in sport.
“We found that a small, but increasing number, of countries, 18, had specific legislation. Others had amended either medicine or Customs and Excise legislation.
“What was more difficult to identify was the significance of the legislative changes. Did it make it more effective in tackling doping in sport?”
Professor Houlihan said some countries reported a significant improvement because it signalled to public prosecutors, police and Custom and Excise, to take the issue seriously. It also helped some to prosecute athletes on the back of information received from Custom and Excise about the importation of drugs.
Some countries, however, said the pursuit of athletes was a low level priority compared to tracking the importation of heroin.
Professor Houlihan said: “The balance of opinion was that over time it would raise the profile of the manufacture and trafficking of anabolic steroids and would be an advantage to the global effort tackling doping in sport.”
WADA president John Fahey said: “WADA has been saying for some time that there needs to be a more coherent approach to fighting drugs in sport involving more public authorities, and this study shows how anti-doping legislation can assist the anti-doping community.
“We will continue to encourage governments worldwide to implement such legislation so that mechanisms can be put in place to further address the issue, whether it is to allow the NADOs a greater role or to increase the focus on trafficking of PEDS.”
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Notes for editors:
Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.
It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2011 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the Best Student Experience in England every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.
It is a member of the 1994 Group of 12 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.