Ria Damgren Nilsson, ITU executive board member and liaison to ITU’s anti-doping team, attended a very important anti-doping conference this past weekend in Stockholm, Sweden.
The two-day Symposium was held at the Karolinska Institue and included sessions on doping regulations in sport and society, why athletes engage in doping, the societal effects of doping and misuse and addiction of drugs.
Included in the session on drug-free sport and society was a presentation by WADA Athlete Committee member Dr. Sara Fischer, who gave an athlete’s perspective on the problem of doping in sport.
According to the WADA website, “WADA Director General David Howman delivered the keynote address at an anti-doping symposium in Stockholm on Friday during which he outlined the importance of developing further alliances in the fight against doping in sport.”
The Doping as a Public Health Issue symposium was hosted by the Professor Arne Ljungqvist Foundation and welcomed representatives from the World Health Organization, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), INTERPOL and WADA.
Professor Ljungqvist, the Vice-President of WADA and Chair of the IOC Medical Committee, is one of the longest serving experts in the fight against doping in sport.
During his address, Howman recognized the work of Professor Ljungqvist in protecting the rights of clean athletes over the last two decades. He then gave a detailed explanation of the challenges faced by the anti-doping community, as well as the strategy WADA has for addressing these challenges.
Howman said that “doping is no longer an issue that is confined within elite sporting boundaries. Rather, it is a problem that permeates other areas of our society, and has a much wider impact than it did several decades ago when it first became a major challenge for sport.”
The speech made reference to the encroaching involvement of the doping underworld in sport and called on governments and public authorities to enhance their cooperation with the anti-doping community.
Howman confirmed that the agency received increasing evidence of “a social problem of steroids in schools and amongst our security forces, the presence of the criminal underworld in trafficking prohibited substances, and an unregulated supply of non-sanitized drugs through the internet and from profit-making opportunists – including many in local gyms.”
He said the issue involved “amateur athletes doping in recreational sports events, young people taking steroids in a bid to look good, and an overall challenge to the values of sport and its integrity through allied activities such as match-fixing, bribery and corruption.”
Howman explained that there was a growing need for intelligence and information sharing in conjunction with traditional testing methods as a consequence of increasingly sophisticated doping methods supported by well-resourced entourages.
He also addressed growing evidence of the ‘trickle-down effect’ of doping. The influence of elite athletes who chose to dope is now being seen in amateur sport, both at youth and veteran levels.
“WADA is hopeful that this gathering will allow the public health message to resonate even more loudly, and help inform a broader section of society about doping issues – both in terms of our physical health and in terms of our moral well being,” Mr. Howman told attendees.
For a full copy of Mr. Howman’s keynote address, please click here.