By Steven V. Selthoffer
BONN, Germany, March 23. THE first thing you notice at the facilities of the German anti-doping agency, NADA (Nationale Anti Doping Agentur/Organization) in Bonn, is the small, grey, home housing the agency along the tree-lined street. Once you step inside, the second thing you observe are the spartan offices and the absence of necessary staff. It is minimalism to the core. A small table and chair sit inside the carpet-less NADA entrance for visitors. The CEO's and receptionist's desks piled with work. There is little money for coffee or office supplies. Mindful of good hospitality, however, genuinely meaningful apologies are supplied to guests in abundance.
Top sport executive, Dr. Roland Augustin, CEO of NADA in Bonn was forced to resign, March 8th, in Berlin at the NADA Executve Board Meeting, after a series of television exposès by German television and print media that revealed 201 athletes who "failed to appear" for testing, and pointed out that of the 4,418 planned tests, there were 385 "no-shows."
The reporting "failures" mentioned in the media were not a failure of the mandated "targeting controls," but, only communication proceedures from out-of-competition, random testing. If the athlete was not at home, due to a sudden change of plans, the DCOs (Doping Control Officer) can attempt a second, or a rare third attempt, if the athlete failed to update their database… to go to a movie or visit a friend.
It should also be pointed out that only 2.5 people were assigned to work on the NADA databases. Only 2 people full-time, and one person half-time, in the German NADA were able to be funded and were responsible for the entire data quality control of the NADA databases that includes over 9,000 world-class athletes!
Athletes are entitled to have an A and B sample tested independently. Shouldn't the NADA CEO be given the same consideration? It is now time to independently examine the "B sample" of the NADA system. It is time to scrutinize the cause and effects of the decisions by the NADA Board of Directors, and to examine their reaction and reporting proceedures.
Why? Because similar conditions and scenarios are playing out to a greater or lesser degree at NADA's sister organizations called NADOs (National Anti-Doping Organizations) which are located around the globe and directly effect all Olympic sports including swimming.
Dr. Augustin ordeal is only the latest in a series of catastrophic sports debacles to splash across the German news spectrum. All of them have been victims of media frenzies, fearful or weak Board leadership, and/or shallow and faulty analysis. German National Olympic Committee (NOC) President, and former multiple Olympic medal winner in swimming, who led the German NOC through its golden years, Dr. Klaus Steinbach has stepped down. German National Football Coach, Jürgen Klinsmann, who guided his team to a third place finish after hosting the World Cup in Berlin is gone. And now, respected anti-doping chief, Roland Augustin is out.
Unrelated? Not quite. Politics and sport are merging in Germany once again, at an alarming speed, through an unprecedented conglomeration of sport organizations, national political party medling, and cross-institutional government functionaries, resulting in emerging conflicts of interest scenarios, nightmare funding benchmarks, and creating a patchwork of sports organizations in the name of "integration" from out dated strategies and plans from over 20 years ago.
NADA Board leadership only rose to action after the ARD television piece, aired which exposed the "operational deficits" of NADA that were previously highlighted by Augustin in his address before the Deutsche Bundestag (German Parliament), and in his internal communications, emails, telephone conversatons, internal meetings, and other speeches. (ARD is a consortium of public-law broadcasting institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany)
Dr. Roland Augustin, a seasoned sport executive with a broad grasp of historical sport and doping issues, combined with a built-in "over-the-horizon" radar for emerging problems, is one of the stellar anti-doping czars in sport.
In Martin Luther's era, (and for a few hundered years after that) there was saying in Germany, "For anyone to make it in politics or business in the German Provence of Baden-Württemburg, you must first graduate from the Theological Seminary. To make it anywhere else in Germany, you must get thrown out of the Seminary."
Nearly the same holds true today.
After the smoke clears, Augustin will automatically make the short list to replace WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) CEO, Dick Pound, when Pound steps down from the helm in the future.
NADA Remains Chronically Underfunded
Augustin created and developed the overall strategic plan to make the German NADA one of the top three NADOs in the world in the areas of athlete relations, operations, organization, and in corporate and government relations. "I've always first had in mind the benefit of the athletes and how everything affects them. To educate and protect them for their health. To protect them from false allegations (of cheating), and to take out the black sheep in sport."
Augustin initiated the action plan and blue-print with way-forward documentation for the thorough review of NADA, its operations and prevention programs, placing all the facts on the table, over the course of the last four years.
During that time, the intense high-pitched, piercing alarms of the financial heart monitors at NADA went off. NADA was chronically underfunded. The multiple scenarios Augustin repeatedly warned the NADA Board and DOSB (Deutscher Olympischer Sportbund) about in numerous internal communiquès that could happen, did happen.
Operational and reporting systems slowed.
Augustin was driving an active and aggressive anti-doping testing program, for a very large number of athletes in both the winter and summer Olympic Games. That demanded an increase in thousands of tests. The agency was deriving the most from every precious Euro spent. "If you are determined to have clean athletes, you will strenghten the testing programs." Consequently, there will be a higher number of "no-shows," with the ramping up of thousands of tests, due to communication discrepancies, schedule conflicts, excessive demand on staff, travel, faulty data, athletes dropping out of the programs, etc. There is a major difference between "no-shows," and "avoidance."
Critics don't understand the operational statistics or numerical testing correlations. They are only a "snap-shot" and not the "video" of the whole picture. Which resulted in a watch dog like Augustin being penalized for running an efficient and growing, anti-doping, testing program, while others simultaneously failed to provide him with the necessary funding to maintain and improve it. In the German industrial sport complex, no good deed goes unpunished.
Augustin could have comfortably tested only a couple thousand or so athletes and had a nearly perfect "no-show" record and used the low budget as an excuse. He didn't. Currently, out of the 385 "no-shows," due to the increase in testing, only 40 are still unaccounted for- and those are being pursued vigorously.
The promised funding never materialized. There is only a slight 2% increase on the horizon. The transformation Augustin was leading at NADA turning the neglected agency into a leading sport institution will now only continue in miniscule increments at best, without vital funding.
The Key Issue is Data Quality Control – Can It Get Any More Complicated?
In the German sport federations there are over 9,000 athletes from young, 14-year-old kids to 35-year-old Olympic medal winning, professionals in the various databases. Each athlete's name, address, telephone number, mobile number, email address(es), names of parents, the sport federation and team responsible, coaches, and other contact details, must be updated constantly, and maintained accurately, every day. Also, for all 9,000 athletes, the NADA and the DCOs in each respective city must know where the athlete is at any given moment, the address, telephone number, location, etc. so that any out-of-competition, and unannounced testing can be done.
Got a new girlfriend? NADA needs to know where you're sleeping. Augustin pointed out the conflict of interest scenarios that any given NADO imposes on the civil liberties of athletes, their rights to privacy, balanced with the necessary information needed concerning their location, from their private lives, that is demanded and required by the sport federations to be able to carry out random out-of-competition testing.
2.5 people in total were tasked to ensure and coordinate all up-to-the-minute information and operational communications for over 9,000 athletes, for their where-abouts to the DCOs, at any given second, and to consolidate and report the results to their respective winter and summer Olympic sport federations, including the athletes' locations, reporting the athletes' testing results, tabulating the information, cross-referencing the data for accuracy, inserting changes, and disseminating the information in real-time to the DCOs and federations, all the time, 24/7, 365 days a year. Only 2.5 people.
"Essentially, they turned the responsibility of communications over to the athletes. Its not fair to young ahtletes, they can't understand why they have to constantly report the same information to three different sport governing authorities," stated Augustin. In Germany and most of Europe, athletes must constantly upgrade, and give anti-doping contact information to three or four different agencies, the international federations, like FINA and their databases, in Germany, the national federations, DSV, (Deutscher Schwimm-Verband e.V.) and their databases, the NADO of each country, and WADA. "The databases are not communicating with each other. Kids are not database managers. They want to go out on weekends." Consequently, there are missed tests that are then attempted later again. (The so called, "Missed Test" rate as reported in the media).
Exasperated, Augustin stated, "The chronic under-funding also makes it easier for cheats to evade and avoid detection." That was extremely difficult and frustrating for a no-nonsense prosecutor like Augustin to endure. Who in recent European court cases, wanted to see the doctors who facilitated the cheating, stripped of their right to practice as well, combined with punishing the offending athletes.
However, to cover their under funding shortcomings, sources said, WADA has placed the responsibility on the young athletes and university students, by making the athletes database managers no matter where they are or how young. You're a 16 year-old girl, swimming on the national team. Want to go to a concert? Decide on Friday afternoon to have a sleep-over at a girlfriends? That could result in a missed unannounced test. The kids don't remember to do their homework assignments, let alone remember to upgrade the WADA or their federation databases. There are also cultural issues. Its not Silicon Valley in eastern Europe. Internet access is not everywhere. They don't have "No Child Left Behind," programs in their schools. Despite recent technology programs, the "Digital Divide" between East and West is a real factor in Germany where unemployment constantly remains over 27% in some eastern areas.
Should any young athlete forget their PIN number for the online NADA database, it takes one person, (of the 2.5 available) off line to handle the personal request. There are dozens of people forgetting their PIN numbers given any thousand number of athletes.
"Communications are the key to the missed tests," stated Augustin. "What we require from the athletes is tremendous." (In terms of personal information and the near daily constant updates on their locations, with addresses, telephone numbers, contact details, dates, times, etc.).
Leaning across the table for emphasis, "The personal freedom of the athlete is never mentioned," exclaimed Augustin. (Regarding the athlete's concerns about how they are treated, from their point of view and how it affects their performance).
Data Protection Violations Possible
Unfortunately, there are no ISO 9001:2000 certification standards for German sport media like there are for the NADA data and testing proceedures. The majority of German sport media reporting just parroted the missed test facts, revealing a "herd mentality."
The television exposès revealed the DCOs (Doping Control Officers) driving along in vehicles, accompanied by public television media, late at night/early am, to tape the performance of "real" doping control on athletes. "It looked more like a raid," stated one television viewer. Other sources said, the piece clearly showed the DCOs discussing information and entering data with the television crew present and taping. That clearly calls into question the data protection clauses and violation of privacy issues for the athletes.
Why were the residences or private homes of the athletes, (where they were supposedly sleeping that night), placed for viewing on public television? Other athletes know who they are and that they were not there. Was there any compromising video taken that may have violated the athletes privacy rights, that may not have aired, but is still in possession of the network? How many names, addresses and what other information concerning the athletes, does the media now know? Who was responsible for permitting the television crew to accompany the DCOs? What private information about the athletes from the DCOs did the television network team acquire from late night unmonitored conversations? Why are any media allowed to accompany DCOs on supposedly private trips directly to athletes at any given time, if the information the athletes provide in the databases is supposed to be confidential?
NADA falls under the juristicition of the Bundesministerium des Innern, (the Federal Interior Ministry). The real questions for the athletes should be, "Were there any data protection laws or data security laws broken?" "Were the athletes rights violated by the release of any information to members of the television networks by any agency?" The television piece raises a plethora of legal issues concerning the athletes, their rights to privacy, data protection, verses the legitmate concerns of the television media and the public's right to know.
The alarmist media reports that swept the NADA Board into a frenzy, never pointed out the sensitive issues concerning the athlete's rights or personal civil liberties in light of the fact of east Germany emerging from years of STASI control, or the former DDR doping issues.
The Funding Game
Pharmaceutical companies in Europe are hesitant to financially give directly to any NADO. Its a hard sell. They are careful to avoid any conflict of interest scenarios that could emerge from any rogue doctor or athlete misusing their products- and rightly so. It carries the same stigma as asking individuals and businesses to directly fund the police department.
Augustin pointed to a funding model highlighted by the Chairman of the NADA Supervisory Board, Michael Hölz, from Detusche Bank. Hölz's strategy is to have a percentage from every Euro raised from every sport federation go directly to NADA automatically. That way, by having the Olympic federations all equally responsible for funding NADA, it would free NADA personnel to get on with their core business of compliance, education, and prevention- not fund-raising.
Currently, Augustin will take a short sabbatical and is reviewing his options. Augustin has already proven his worth in a tough environment. Some of the media reports on the German NADA were irresponsible in light of historical concerns and callous in regard to the rights of the athletes.
Dr. Augustin's B sample is clean. He should not have been DSQ'd.
However, the damage has already been done. But, when it comes to establishing a fair playing field, vigorously pursuing and prosecuting offenders, creating a clean Olympic Games, or World Championships and handling sensitive and confidential information, the athletes know who they can trust. ■
* Dr. Roland Augustin, resides in Bonn, Germany, with his wife and children, and is the former CEO of the German NADA (National Anti-Doping Agentur). English is his second language.
The World Anti-Doping Agency can be found at: http://www.wada-ama.org/en/
The Nationale Anti Doping Agentur for Germany can be located at:
The German Olympic Committee: http://www.dosb.de/index.php
The German National Swimming Organization, the Deutscher Schwimm-Verband e.V. : http://www.dsv.de/DesktopDefault.aspx
The German Federal Interior Ministry: