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Page last updated at 23:35 GMT, Monday, 16 February 2009

Athletes air issues over testing

Drug testing
Drugs testing procedures have become more rigid

British athletes met with World Anti-Doping Agency officials on Monday to voice their concerns about new rules for out-of-competition testing.

The "whereabouts" system used to track athletes for tests has been revised and the changes have attracted criticism.

The new rules state that athletes need to be available for an hour a day to tell drug testers where they will be.

"To say it has overtaken my life is an understatement," Beijing rowing silver medallist Annie Vernon told BBC 5 Live.

She believes some athletes may struggle to cope with the changes and could inadvertently miss tests and end up being banned from competition.

"We got told by UK Sport to set reminders on your phone, put up Post-It notes around the house, get family and friends to give you a nudge, to keep on top of the testing slots," added Vernon.

"That's not a workable system. You are going to have clean athletes at home because they fell foul of these rules."

Wada is already facing a legal challenge from a group of Belgian professional athletes, while British tennis star Andy Murray has been especially critical.

"These new rules are so draconian that it makes it almost impossible to live a normal life," he told The Times.

"I may miss a flight or a flight could be delayed, yet I have to let Wada know exactly where I will be, even when I am resting.

"They even turned up at my hotel in Miami while I was on holiday."

BBC Radio 5 Live sports news correspondent Gordon Farquhar said: "So concerned are Wada about the strength of feeling over the new regulations, that their chief executive, David Howman, agreed to hear the complaints in person in London on Monday.

"He believes that better communication as to why the changes were made will ease athletes' concerns."

The Wada chief executive explained: "In the past these things have come up because people get aggrieved when they don't get the personal touch - somebody hasn't come and talked to them personally or they haven't had the situation explained to them by their personal federation.

"Once things settle down then you find that people say 'well, we're doing this to make sure there is integrity in our sport and people stay clean, and we accept the responsibility on our shoulders to make sure people comply'."

A revised version of the Wada code, the global standards that underpin the fight against drugs cheats, came into force on 1 January, and among the key changes was a significant tightening up of whereabouts.

Before 1 January, any athlete in his or her country's testing pool (so any elite athlete in an Olympic sport or leading players in the main team sports) would have to specify, three months in advance, a time and a place each day, five days a week, when they could be found to give a no-notice drugs test.

Athletes could pick any hour between 0500 and 2300, and they would only have to be in the stated place for a portion of that hour, the onus being on the testers to be in the right place at the right time.

Many athletes, therefore, selected 0500-0600 as their window and resigned themselves to the fact they might get an early wake-up call two or three times a year.

The new code, however, moved the earliest available time back to 0600 and crucially called for the athlete to be available for the full stated hour. The system was also extended to seven days a week.

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see also
New UK anti-doping body confirmed
04 Feb 09 |  Sport Homepage
Legal threat to anti-doping code
22 Jan 09 |  Sport Homepage
Athletes to face new doping rules
22 Jan 09 |  Athletics
ICC to start random drug testing
29 Dec 08 |  Cricket
Home drugs test idea upsets PFA
11 Nov 08 |  Football
Legalities 'lag behind doping work'
21 Jul 08 |  Science & Environment
Swimming brings in new drug code
08 Apr 08 |  Swimming
Drug cheats to face four-year ban
17 Nov 07 |  Other sport...
UK Sport defiant over test policy
28 Feb 07 |  Athletics

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