WADA anticipating more state-sponsored doping

World Anti-Doping Agency Director General Olivier Niggli, right, and David Howman. (AP)
Updated 14 October 2016

WADA anticipating more state-sponsored doping

NEW YORK: After Russia’s widespread violations at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, new World Anti-Doping Agency director general Olivier Niggli says an expanding investigations staff will be on the lookout for state-sponsored cheating in other nations.
“It has happened in one country. I think it would be naive to think it’s the only country,” he said Thursday during an interview. “We have to have our eyes really open and also make sure we act on intelligence and information we might get.”
A report commissioned for WADA found state-directed manipulation of drug-testing results at the Moscow anti-doping lab from at least 2011 through the summer of 2013 and said Russia’s Ministry of Sport advised the laboratory which findings to cover up.
More than 100 Russian athletes, including the entire track and field team, were banned from this year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Niggli, a 46-year-old Swiss lawyer who replaced David Howman on July 1, said WADA will have conversations with FIFA about testing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“It’s still sufficiently far away to hope that things will have changed and improved in Russia,” Niggli said. “It’s very important that we be able to work with the Russians to try to set up a system that is called compliant and that will provide some safeguards so that everybody regains confidence in what is going on there.”
Since the manipulation of Russian drug tests became public, the sample bottle used to collect urine has been improved. The IOC also has proposed that WADA take responsibility for drug testing across sports or establish an affiliate agency to do so.
Niggli rejected a suggestion by Russian Vladimir Putin that athletes with therapeutic use exemptions be excluded from major competitions.
“I don’t think it’s meaningful. I think every human being has a right of being treated for medical conditions,” he said.
Niggli was hired as WADA’s legal director in 2002, added the title of finance director two years later, then left for a law firm in 2011. He returned to WADA two years ago as chief operating officer.
He said WADA accepts the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to cut the suspension of Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova from two years to 15 months. A winner of all four Grand Slam tournaments, Sharapova tested positive for the heart drug meldonium, added to the banned list this year.
“It was slightly surprising that at that level she wouldn’t get warned properly by her entourage,” he said.
WADA was set up by the IOC in 1999 and has a $30 million budget for next year. It already has doubled the size of its unit that scrutinizes possible violations, hiring former Interpol agent Guenter Younger as its new director of intelligence and investigations. Four additional employees likely will be added to the unit by next year.
“Whistle-blower is another obviously important thing,” Niggli said. “Even if we have an investigation department, we’re not the police, we’re not law enforcement. We have no legal means of compelling people to talk to us. It’s only if people want to bring us information that I will get it.”
WADA believes maintaining biological passports for all athletes subject to testing will increase obstacles to doping. The passports establish baseline levels for each athlete, used for comparing with testing results.
“Makes it a lot more complicated for a chemist to get an edge,” Niggli said. “You would see variations which would be totally abnormal there and would trigger some reaction.”
He praised Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NHL for their anti-doping programs, which are subject to labor laws and negotiated with their unions. Among the major US professional leagues, there is one WADA is not working with.
“We don’t have too much relationship at the moment with the NBA,” he said.


Coronavirus forces Wimbledon cancelation for 1st time since WWII

Updated 01 April 2020

Coronavirus forces Wimbledon cancelation for 1st time since WWII

  • Wimbledon champion Roger Federer tweeted one word: “Devastated”
  • The prestigious tournament joins the growing list of major sports events called off in 2020 because of the Covid-19 outbreak

LONDON: For the first time in its nearly century-and-a-half history, Wimbledon was canceled for a reason other than war, scrapped in 2020 on Wednesday because of the coronavirus pandemic.
With Britain under a nationwide lockdown, the All England Club announced its decision to call off its storied two-week grass-court tennis tournament, something that hadn’t happened to the sport’s oldest Grand Slam event in 75 years.
“It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of The Championships has only been interrupted previously by World Wars,” club chairman Ian Hewitt said, “but, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe that it is a measure of this global crisis that it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year’s Championships, and instead concentrate on how we can use the breadth of Wimbledon’s resources to help those in our local communities and beyond.”
Wimbledon was scheduled to be played on the outskirts of London from June 29 to July 12. Instead, the next edition of the tournament will be June 28 to July 11, 2021.
Eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer surely spoke for many tennis players, officials and fans with a one-word message on Twitter: “Devastated.”


Also Wednesday, the ATP and WTA announced that the men’s and women’s professional tours would be suspended until at least July 13, bringing the number of elite tennis tournaments affected by the new coronavirus since early March to more than 30. The top tours already had been on hold through June 7. Lower-level events on the Challenger Tour and ITF World Tennis Tour also are called off for the first two weeks of July now.
Wimbledon first was held in 1877 and has been contested every year since, with the exception of two stretches: from 1915-18 because of World War I, and from 1940-45 because of World War II.
Now the prestigious tournament — known for its carefully manicured grass, its Royal Box at Center Court, its rules about wearing white, its strawberries and cream and, alas, its rain delays — joins the growing list of major sports events called off in 2020 because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
That includes the Tokyo Olympics — which have been pushed back 12 months — and the NCAA men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments.
Wimbledon is the first Grand Slam tournament wiped out because of the coronavirus; the start of the French Open was postponed from late May to late September.
Shortly after the news came from Wimbledon, the US Tennis Association issued a statement saying it “still plans to host the US Open as scheduled,” from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13 in New York.
As of now, the French Open is set to begin six days after the men’s final at Flushing Meadows, where a facility housing indoor practice courts is now a temporary 350-bed hospital and Louis Armstrong Stadium is being used to prepare 25,000 meal packages per day for patients, workers, volunteers and schoolchildren in the city.
Wednesday’s decision by the All England Club means Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep will not get a chance to defend their Wimbledon titles from 2019.
“We are going through something bigger than tennis and Wimbledon will be back!” Halep wrote on social media. “And it means I have even longer to look forward to defending my title.”
Serena Williams retweeted the club’s message about the cancelation and wrote: “I’m Shooked.”
The move takes away what might have been one of Federer’s best chances to try to add to his men’s-record 20 Grand Slam titles. Federer, who turns 39 in August, is recovering from knee surgery and planned to return in time for the European grass-court circuit that now has been erased from the calendar.
In a statement last week, the All England Club said that postponing the two-week event would not come “without significant risk and difficulty” because of the grass surface that is affected by weather conditions. The club also said then that it had ruled out “playing behind closed doors” without spectators.
Hundreds of thousands of people have caught COVID-19 around the globe, and tens of thousands have died. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough, but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization.
The All England Club said it would work to help with the emergency response to the pandemic, including distributing medical equipment and food and offering the use of their facilities in other ways.
Regular day-to-day life has come to a halt in many ways in many parts of the world in recent weeks, and sports has reflected that.
The NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball are on hold indefinitely; the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500 were pushed back several months until September; England’s Premier League and other club soccer competitions are currently suspended; and the European soccer championship — scheduled to end in London on the same day as the Wimbledon men’s final — was postponed from 2020 to 2021.
“I have been fortunate to go to Wimbledon every year since 1961, and I am certainly going to miss it this year,” said Billie Jean King, who won a total of 20 trophies at the All England Club — six for singles, 10 for women’s doubles, four for mixed doubles. “Right now, we need to make sure we are taking good care of ourselves and our loved ones. These are challenging times for all of us and now is the time for us to do what is right for our world and what works for our sport.”