Olympic chiefs clash with US over anti-doping reform

Talek HARRIS
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The majority of drug-testing agencies believe in applying sporting sanctions for dopers as obtaining guilty verdicts through the courts is very difficult

The top Olympics body rejected American proposals for reforming the World Anti-Doping Agency on Thursday, as one of its members stirred controversy by comparing a ban on Russian athletes to the Holocaust.

The International Olympic Committee's executive board issued a declaration calling for a "more robust and independent anti-doping system", but said sports bodies and national governments must remain heavily involved.

America's anti-doping and Olympic bodies had earlier said WADA's governance should exclude anyone from the Olympics or sports world, to avoid conflicts of interest, and that it should have powers to suspend federations and member Olympic committees.

Moves to shake up WADA, which is 50 percent funded by the IOC, follow a storm of controversy over a report commissioned by the body which found evidence of systematic, state-sponsored doping in Russia.

But IOC presidential spokesman Mark Adams, speaking during talks in 2018 Winter Olympics venue Pyeongchang, said the proposal of a sports-free WADA governance was "plainly ridiculous".

"The call by some that there should be no expertise in sport in the governance of an organisation which is looking into doping in sport, is plainly ridiculous," he said.

"All governance involves experts in the subjects. What is important is to have a separation between the governance and the prosecution of the cases, in other words the sanctioning and the investigation.

"If those two are kept separate from the governance then you have a good, well-run system which runs along the separation of powers."

The executive board's declaration said WADA "must be equally independent from both sports organisations and from national interests", but that both should be represented equally on WADA's foundation board and executive committee.

The foundation board and executive committee, WADA's top decision-making and policy-making bodies respectively, are currently split equally between representatives from governments and the Olympic Movement.

- 'Like Mr. Hitler' -

US anti-doping chief Travis Tygart has said the overlap between the IOC and WADA -- whose president, Craig Reedie, is also an IOC member -- is hampering the fight against drugs, describing it as the "fox guarding the hen house".

Olympic sports have been hit by multiple drug scandals in recent years, including revelations about Russia and also Kenya, which both were both warned of possible bans from last year's Rio Olympics.

The US Olympic Committee said this month that there was a need for a "clearly independent anti-doping body with overriding global authority", echoing calls by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

In Pyeongchang, the IOC executive board also called for elected athlete members and independent members on the WADA boards, and a "neutral" president and vice-president who don't come from any government or sports organisation.

It also recommended an independent testing authority. WADA's responsibilities should include maintaining the list of banned substances, accrediting anti-doping laboratories and compliance-monitoring of countries which have signed up to the World Anti-Doping Code, the IOC said.

The IOC's doping declaration came after board member Gian Franco Kasper was forced to apologise for comparing a potential blanket ban on Russian athletes from Pyeongchang to the Holocaust.

"I'm just against bans or sanctioning of innocent people," Kasper said. "Like Mr. Hitler did -- all Jews were to be killed, independently of what they did or did not."

The 73-year-old Swiss, who is the world head of winter sports and a former WADA executive committee member, later apologised for his "inappropriate and insensitive comment".

Concerns have been growing that Russia is yet to clean up its act after WADA's McLaren report uncovered a large-scale doping conspiracy, notably at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.