EU sports chief warns WADA, rules out rival

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Lisbon, Oct 26: The European Union's top sports regulator has ruled out a new European rival to the World Anti-Doping Agency, but said the organisation required a major shake-up under its new chief.

EU Sports Commissioner Jan Figel was responding to a call from former French sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour, who withdrew last week from the race to become WADA boss, for a new EU anti-doping agency, saying WADA was ''ineffective''.

''I do not see a need for an EU anti-doping agency separate to WADA, but it needs a shake-up,'' Figel told Reuters in an interview at an EU sports ministers meeting late yesterday.

''I think WADA needs improvements and it is now the moment, with a review of its practices and elections of leaderships. I hope it will be reflected by the new period of engagement.'' ''We now face the first evaluation, re-adaptation of the WADA code. These areas of substances and processes in doping practices are developing very quickly so response should be even faster if we want to be not just commentators of the situation,'' Figel added.

The leading anti-doping body will hold a landmark meeting in Madrid on Nov. 17 when its new president will be elected and it will review its procedures and rules, otherwise known as its code.

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Australia's John Fahey is now the only candidate for the top anti-doping post following the late withdrawal of Lamour, who also quit as WADA vice-president last week.

''Madrid should mean a landmark on improving the situation and readiness of international bodies to build credibility within the future of sport,'' Figel said.

He said that although he was highly disappointed that the new head of WADA was unlikely to be European, the anti-doping body can still expect more robust contributions from EU states.

''I think Europe should be a protagonist of strong credible global co-operation against doping, but protagonism or strong clear responsibility means credible action by Europe,'' Figel said.

The comment will annoy International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials who do not want political interference from EU governments or the EU Executive Commission in any areas of sport, including doping.

''It is not exclusivity, nor is it euro-centrism, but we must prepare a solid base for November in Madrid and to do that we (EU) must bring input,'' he said.

The Commissioner confirmed that one issue Brussels would bring to the table next month was the criminalisation of doping across Europe which he championed in his strategy paper on the future of sport published in July.

''We need more common understanding, definitions of doping activity for substances in a similar way as it is with illicit drugs and treat doping in the same way as we deal with illegal drugs, if that is achieved this will be great victory,'' he said.

But he acknowledged there were very differing views on this point among EU governments.

''Stripping of titles is the minimum, but we must look at other, possibly tougher deterrents,'' he said.

Reuters
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