Fair cop in battle on doping, says WADA boss

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WADA Director-General Olivier Niggli said police can play a pivotal role against doping as they can do things beyond the reach of national anti-doping agencies

Police work like that which led to the downfall of shamed cycling cheat Lance Armstrong is pivotal to the battle against doping, says World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) Director General Olivier Niggli.

Niggli, who is also an advocate for ensuring proper law enforcement security is in place for whistleblowers, said the police can do things beyond the reach of national anti-doping agencies.

"People suspected of doping or being involved in it aren't going to be intimidated by being in a room with a doping investigator," said Niggli.

"However, they wouldn't be as comfortable in a police station and the policeman saying you will answer the questions or face three days in a cell."

Niggli said the manner in which they had cracked the Armstrong case served as a perfect illustration of how effective a role law enforcement can play.

"We had testimony from his team-mates but it wasn't enough," said Niggli, who spoke to a small group of journalists after appearing on a panel at the Tackling Doping in Sport Conference.

"However, we got the Italian police to look into a connection and thanks to their work and co-operation with the Swiss authorities they discovered financial transactions between Armstrong and (Dr) Michele Ferrari."

Some sports organisations, such as the Irish Greyhound Board, hire policemen.

Their Integrity and Welfare Officer, Enda McCabe, a former detective sergeant who had been in charge of the Irish police Counter Terrorism International Section, usually hands over details of doping offenders to the local police so it is entered on their record.

Nicole Sapstead, chief executive of UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), is also an advocate of working in unison with the police and says they have had positive results in joint operations.

"We have had some really successful link-ups with law enforcement," said Sapstead.

"We have said to them we have grounds to believe there are underground laboratories and then we have done a combined seizure raid on those institutions.

"It has yielded really profitable results for the police in terms of cash and of benefit for us as an organisation in taking down dodgy underground labs producing God knows what in the most filthy conditions.

"That's a massive win for us."

However, Sapstead admits limited resources ensures these raids are not common practice.

"For the police anti-doping is not a priority, it is the reality of the world we live in and no different from any other country you walk into.

"Like everyone it is question of limited resources, its about us somehow demonstrating as an organisation that we have something value added, as in mutually beneficial for both parties."

One step Sapstead believes, though, which would be too far is athletes wearing GPS trackers.

"I think you're into a whole invasion of civil liberties and personal freedom, no absolutely not.

"Besides there will be athletes who will say I don't want you to know where I am every minute of the day and it's not because they are dope cheats but doing other types of cheating."