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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 November 2007, 13:05 GMT
BBC Sport special report

As part of our special report into doping in sport we have asked Victor Conte, the man behind the most infamous drugs scandal in recent history, to give his views on how serious the problem really is and how it can be tackled.

Drugs in sport
It was a single syringe that brought down the Balco doping ring
A former bass player with '70s band the Tower of Power, Conte became a household name as the founder and president of Balco, the San Francisco-based "sports nutrition" company that developed the undetectable steroid THG.

But when a jealous rival sent a syringe with traces of THG to the authorities a chain of events started that would see some of the biggest names in US sport, and Britain's Dwain Chambers, implicated as cheats.

The repercussions are still being felt but Conte himself is back in business - after a four-month spell in prison - selling legal sports supplements.

At the time of his sentencing in 2005, World Anti-Doping Agency boss Dick Pound called on Conte to help him in the battle against doping. Here, for the first time, Conte responds to Wada's plea for help with an open letter.

Victor Conte
By Victor Conte
Founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (Balco)

I offer the following information because, as ironic as it might seem, I believe I'm qualified to help clean up the massive problem of doping in sports. There is rampant doping going on involving Olympic-calibre athletes RIGHT NOW and it can be stopped RIGHT NOW.

There will not be a genuine level playing field in Olympic sport until all top athletes around the world are subjected to the same number and type of drug tests.

Wada has developed strict rules and policies but it needs to take more direct action instead of delegating the testing responsibility to independent federations of small countries that may not be motivated to catch cheats.

As things stand, Wada is an agency that governs and oversees anti-doping federations around the world. My understanding is that Wada itself only conducts a couple of hundred doping tests per year on a worldwide basis. To be more effective it needs to be much more "hands on".

Doping is still rife in athletics for the sole reason that it is still too easy to beat the testers.

There were no positive drug tests at the recent track and field world championships in Osaka, Japan. I don't think anyone believes that more than 1,000 participants were all clean.

Dwain Chambers
Dwain Chambers was the first of Conte's clients to fail a THG test
To give you an example, the IAAF (world athletics' governing body) requires an athlete to have a minimum of two "out of competition" drug tests each season in order to receive prize money.

But only about 25 of the more than 200 countries that participate in the summer Olympics have independent anti-doping federations. This means that the vast majority of countries that participate at the Olympics are unable to properly test their athletes.

In general, the top 100 track athletes in each event are subjected to random testing. However, the majority of these athletes are only tested twice a year out of competition.

What you have to understand, though, is that the athletes from the smaller/poorer countries (without anti-doping federations) are not tested at all while training on their home soil during the off season. The two mandated urine samples considered to be "out of competition" tests are simply collected between competitions while they are on the European track and field circuit.

In short, this means that when the athletes are at home from October to April each year they have a green light to use all the performance-enhancing drugs they want.

Another problem is the issue of "missed tests". At present, an athlete can miss two during an 18-month period without any sanctions. This should be reduced to one.

The second missed test, instead of the third, should be considered the same as a positive test. There should also be more transparency about who has missed tests and how many they have missed.

The US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) does not provide specific information about missed tests by athletes. The IAAF does not provide any information about missed tests. Why not?

There is no transparency regarding missed tests by any anti-doping agency in the world. This needs to change. Athletes are using the two missed-tests rule to beat the system and this is not being disclosed by the anti-doping agencies.

Here is my prescription for reducing doping in sport:

  • Wada should routinely send representatives to test top athletes from countries that do not have their own independent anti-doping agencies, particularly during the off-season
  • The IAAF and Wada should target test the top 20 ranked athletes in each event and test them 10 times during the off season on their home soil instead of two times during the competitive season. The top 20 are the ones getting the lanes, winning the medals and making the money
  • Reduce the number of "missed tests" allowed from two to one, and publish the names of those who have missed tests

What would happen if these three changes were implemented? I believe that the top performances in each event would immediately decline.

Rather than inadequately testing the top 100 athletes in each event, those same resources can be used to properly test the top 20 athletes, which would significantly decrease the use of performance-enhancing drugs at the elite level of sport.

Will it happen? Over to you, Wada.

  • Victor Conte was talking to BBC Sport's Matt Slater

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