Road To The Olympic Games

Money at Play

Anti-doping system needs overhaul: Deidra Dionne

It's unrealistic to expect countries and sport federations to prevent doping in high-performance sport. There's too much at stake and conflicts of interest stand in the way, writes Deidra Dionne.
Dick Pound, former WADA president and chairman of the WADA independent commission, has boosted Canada's reputation in the fight against doping. (Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images)

Much to my dismay, doping in sport continues to dominate headlines.

With the most recent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report exposing the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), cynicism is rampant and the doping shadow continues to be exposed. Every new athletic feat seemingly starts with an asterisk of uncertainty.

If you haven't noticed, following the layers of the numerous doping-related scandals requires an education in acronyms. With recent storylines including WADA, IAAF, CCES, USADA, FINA, ARAF and RUSADA, it's no wonder the average sport fan is happy to label all sport dirty.

Unravelling the layers of how doping is policed is not an easy task but unscrambling the system sheds light on the reason the system is failing.

The World Anti-Doping Code is a document created by WADA that establishes internationally consistent anti-doping policies and regulations. The Code must then be ratified, or adopted, as law in each individual country. In addition to being accepted, implemented and regulated by individual countries, International Sport Federations and National Olympic Committees must also adopt the Code.

Essentially, this means an athlete is tested by an anti-doping governing body in their home country (in Canada through the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport) and at international sporting events (through the International Sport Federation).

The first layer of testing is policed by an athlete's country, which relies on the same government for sport funding. The second layer of policing is by the athlete's sport federation. That same federation is looking to generate revenue through commercial partnerships and broadcast rights fees.

I've overly simplified the complexities of the system but you get the point. A conflict of interest exists. A conflict of interest that can, and in some cases has, been nullified by a culture valuing clean sport. By countries and sports not tolerating doping.

I believe Canada is one of these countries. We have retired Canadian athletes like Becky Scott and Andreanne Morin continuously pushing for clean sport from within WADA. We have Dick Pound, founder and former president of WADA. We have athletes that continue to stand for the ideals of our population.

Realistically, this culture and these values aren't the norm internationally.

Wanted: Truly independent anti-doping agency

With WADA, under the watchful eye of Dick Pound, exposing the doping issues rampant in track and field, it's time to create a full-time, independent organization to regulate anti-doping in sport.  

A clean athlete simply can't rely on the current system.

No longer is it enough to expect countries that value medals over the value of clean sport to ensure their athletes are clean.

Correspondingly, relying on international sport federations that risk financial consequence in reduced sponsorship or broadcast rights fees in the event of a positive test, is simply insufficient.

I believe protecting the clean athlete is important. Fighting for an environment where all athletes can compete in drug-free sport.

I happily woke up in the middle of the night to provide urine samples when the Canadian doping control agents knocked on my door. I'm proud to say that I competed clean. Unfortunately, culture and values simply aren't enough, nor is the current self-adopting, implementing and policing.  

The anti-doping system needs to become completely independent to truly ensure it isn't failing those that choose not to cheat.

About the Author

Deidra Dionne

Deidra Dionne is Senior Director, Strategic Development and a Legal Associate at Cimoroni & Company, a sport and entertainment strategic sales group. Her unique outlook on the business of sport stems from her experience as a two-time Olympian and Olympic medallist in freestyle skiing aerials and from her education and experience as a lawyer.