POSTED: February 24th 2009

Platini on a dope-test loser

Michel Platini: 'whereabouts' unappreciated /
Michel Platini: 'whereabouts' unappreciated /

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LAUSANNE: Michel Platini and the European commission will have to think again if they want the World Anti-Doping Agency to run for cover and scrap its ‘whereabouts’ regulations, at least as far as football is concerned.

UEFA’s president had indicated not merely concern but outright opposition to the strictures in the upgraded WADA code; this insists on top-level players and athletes registering their location every hour of every day between 6am and 11pm for potential testing. European education and culture commissioner Jan Figel had even suggested the ‘whereabouts’ regime be put on ice.

But WADA president John Fahey and director-general David Howman were unanimous today in Lausanne in resisting any review until at least early next year – and then only of the implementation system not the concept.

Howman met representatives of nine groups of national and international players’ representates in London last week in an effort to allay concerns. He and Fahey both insisted that they were aware of criticism only  at second-hand, via media reports.

Howman said: “We have had no direct representation at all.”

Football complaints

Complaints about the ‘whereabouts’ process have erupted mainly from football but also from tennis and several team sports over the last three months when the extent of the regime was clarified.

In fact, according to Howman’s review, football is merely late in the day it coming to terms with the process. Many sports, he said, had had a ‘whereabouts’ system in place, albeit with a myriad inconsistencies, since before the original WADA code was introduced in 2003.

Howman added: “Originally we had a rule which said an athlete should be available 365 days a year, 24/7. Now it’s only one hour a day between 6am and 11pm.

"Also, it doesn’t involve every athlete, only those elite athletes in registered testing pools – and each national or international federation determines who is in their pool. It’s not a matter for WADA but we would, obviously, expect each federation to select its top athletes.

"It doesn’t mean others cannot be tested but these are the ones who must provide the ‘whereabouts’ information – and they can do that by sms, email, any way they like. In fact, they do not even have to do it themselves. Their personal manager or team administrator can do it.”

In response to the objection that ‘whereabouts’ reporting meant an invasion of privacy, Howman noted that the sample provision itself was probably a much greater invasion of privacy. He said: “This wasn’t introduced on a whim but after a huge consultation exercise over 18 months.”

Howman and Fahey sidestepped suggestions that some sports federations were at fault for not making enough effort to spread the anti-doping message among their players and athletes. That was no reason for WADA to change its stance.

Value of education

“We will always listen to appropriate criticism and suggestions,” said Howman. “But we can’t change the standard on the basis of complaints in the media. We will inform and educate appropriately and if there are issues to be discussed we will do that. If we can tweak the international standard that will be done. We are not silly but we are pragmatists.”

Fahey added: “Once the 'whereabouts' rule was 24/7 now it’s one hour a day so it is less onerous that it used to be. But how can you have an effective test if you cant find the athlete?

"We’re only eight weeks into this. Surely it’s more appropriate to monitor this and, if shortfalls emerge, then we’ll look at it again but it’s a bit silly to say it’s time to change after only eight weeks when the system is not as onerous as it used to be.”

Both Fahey and Howman dismissed the suggestion that footballers could be allowed a two or three-week holiday break. Fahey said: “I can’t see how you can apply the code only for a certain time of the year if you want a system with integrity.”

Refuting the possibility of a major row with football, Howman said: "We don’t see a collision course with football nor do we see a Titanic situation. We have a healthy relationship with [world federation] FIFA. Its president, Joseph Blatter, is a member of our board. we have had nothng but co-operation and support and if they have isues they will communicate direct and not through the media."

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Keywords · WADA · World Anti-Doping Agency · Fahey · Howman · Lausanne · Platini · Figel · UEFA

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