Sponsors Urged To Fund Anti-Doping & Put Pressure On Teams & Feds To Fight For Clean Sport

esting, testing - but who will fund the efforts of anti-doping agencies at a time when the integrity of testing labs is called into qustion? doping
esting, testing - but who will fund the efforts of anti-doping agencies at a time when the integrity of testing labs is called into qustion?

Sponsors urged to fund anti-doping

Nicole Sapstead, chief executive of UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), has urged sport sponsors to help fund the fight against doping. She also urges sponsors to ask what steps the teams and events they are backing are taking to tackle the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The message could be nowhere more pertinent than in swimming, protests at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the recent 2019 World Championships in Gwangju highlighting the dissatisfaction and disdain of many of the world’s leading swimmers.

The view from the athlete and team stands at every passing event of late has been clear: FINA, the international federation, is letting clean swimmers and programs down through lenience shown to those who fall foul of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code.

Swimming is also a sport that has seen major sponsors and partners of FINA signing up swimmers as they return from doping bans instead of investing in many others who are not towing the taint of doping and/or bad practice.

After Arena ended its relationship with Yuliya Efimova, the Russian breaststroke specialist who tested positive for a banned steroid in 2013, Speedo International, based in London, signed her up when she returned from a 16-month suspension widely regarded in sport as having been lenient and timed to ensure she could return for a home World Championships in Kazan back in 2015.

Such issues are contentious and challenging: the same athletes and coaches jeering from the stands when those towing a doping record walk out to race are also grateful to and supportive of their sponsors. Beyond that, commercial considerations can cloud judgement when it comes to deciding what role a sponsor plays when the athletes they help through finding and provision of kit feel they have no choice but to be ever-more vocal in their opposition to what they regard as lenient responses to cheating in sport.

Sapstead’s plea to sponsors comes amid concerns about a fresh doping scandal emerging in Russia. Yesterday it emerged that Rusada, the Russian anti-doping agency suspended for non-compliance in the past in the wake of the documentary on state-backed cheating by British newspapers and the doping investigations team at the German TV station ARD in 2014, and issues highlighted in the Icarus documentary, is under scrutiny once more.

Reports suggest that data from a Moscow drug-testing laboratory were manipulated before being delivered to the WADA as part of Russia’s commitment to the agency as a passport for returning to international competition in sports such as Track and Field.

WADA’s compliance review committee is set to present the findings to its executive committee tomorrow in Tokyo. Sapstead tells The Observer: “Depending on what happens next week will determine whether Rusada may be declared non-compliant again.

“When you have a national anti-doping organisation which is non-compliant you are back into the question of how do you get them back into the fold?”

Rusada is said to have met independent benchmarks for its testing programme, the paper notes. That, it says, “raises the question of who could have manipulated the data”. Says Sapstead: “Somebody will have had to get into that laboratory. If it was people in the lab or IT experts, they would have received that order from somewhere. Where did it come from?”

On the role of sponsors in all of that and the general fight for clean sport, she tells The Observer:

“I would ask sponsors who get behind massive major events or teams, shouldn’t some of that sponsorship be carved out and put into promoting clean sport or challenging that sport as to what due diligence they have done about their anti-doping programme? Do you really want to put your brand with somebody who may be found wanting?”

The fight against doping relied on more than the efforts of anti-doping agencies, she asserts:

“For too long sports have turned round and gone ‘it’s OK, UK Anti-Doping are there, they get a load of public money and they should just do the job, and we’ll keep our television and sponsorship deals, all the money that we generate commercially for ourselves and our investors. Enough already, they need to put their money where their mouths are.”

She believes sponsors should contribute to costs of keeping sport clean: “There is something to be said for a contribution coming from the sports and those involved in sport. I don’t see any issue with a sponsor saying we’ll give you X, but a percentage of this should go into an integrity pot to ensure you are taking the necessary precautions to ensure that your sport is fit for purpose.”

2 comments

  1. MK Mahoney

    Its about time

    • avatar
      Craig Lord

      Indeed, MK M