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Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Wada hits back in doping rule row

By Matt Slater

Urine Samples
Athletes must be available to provide a sample 365 days a year

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has defended the reformed "whereabouts" system which has attracted criticism from around the sports world.

"We haven't heard a suggestion of anything better," Wada director general David Howman told BBC Sport.

British tennis number one Andy Murray is the latest to criticise the procedures, calling them "draconian".

Wada officials are expected to travel to the UK to meet with concerned federations and athletes next week.

Earlier this week the Professional Players Federation (PPF), an umbrella group of professional player associations in the UK, claimed that Wada's out-of-competition testing was becoming a "fiasco", something Howman roundly rejects.

You are back to that basic question, 'do you want cheats or not?'

David Howman on the importance of whereabouts

"I think that's a little bit over-emotional and I would hope people would get down and address the situation in a sensible and calm fashion," he said.

"This consultation took 18 months to two years before it was settled, so people had plenty of time to think of a better idea but we didn't hear one.

"People who want cheating fall into one category and people who don't are in another, and that's the larger group.

"So you then say here is a process you have to go through, some will say 'that's a bit tough'. But then you are back to that basic question - do you want cheats or not?"

The basis of the system is that athletes provide their national anti-doping organisation with a list of where they will be for one hour of every day over three months to enable the collection of random samples.

Drugs testers arrive unannounced and should any individual fail to meet with them on three separate occasions over an 18-month period, a suspension could follow.

Andy Murray
Andy Murray was tested after his Australian Open exit

Although the system has been in place for several years, the most recent guidelines have proved controversial for the greater demands they make on those being tested.

Wada's 2009 code specifies that athletes must be available seven rather than five days a week and that they are present for the whole of the hour, not just part of it.

The times of day between which they can specify their location have also been restricted.

UK Sport, the national anti-doping organisation, has given its backing to the new measures.

"While I do have some sympathy for the fairly small number of athletes who are required to meet these requirements, I would think that it's a small price to pay for clean athletes to help us drive cheats out of sport," said director of Drug-Free Sport Andy Parkinson.

"Without it we might as well pack up, go home and let the cheats win."

But Murray believes the revised regulations are too strict and has called for a "more realistic and practical way" of testing.

"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."

The new rules were incorporated into tennis at the beginning of the year and have caused consternation amongst top players with world number one Rafael Nadal voicing his opposition to the changes.

There has to be a more realistic and practical way to deal with the problem

Andy Murray on drug testing in tennis
Earlier this week, British Athletics Commission (BAC) chief executive Pete Gardner warned that the tougher regulations meant a number of British athletes would retire if they missed two tests rather than risk the possibility of a ban and the subsequent suspicion if they were absent on a third occasion.

Sixty-five Belgian sportspeople have launched a legal challenge claiming that the intrusive nature of the Wada code breaks European Union privacy laws.

But Howman believes that better communication as to why the changes were made by Wada will ease athletes' concerns.

"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'."

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see also
Anger grows over anti-doping code
04 Feb 09 |  Sport Homepage
New UK anti-doping body confirmed
04 Feb 09 |  Sport Homepage
Legal threat to anti-doping code
22 Jan 09 |  Sport Homepage
New UK body to hear doping cases
16 Oct 07 |  Sport Homepage
Test targets sport drugs cheats
08 Jan 09 |  Health
Women's tennis to unify testing
04 Sep 06 |  Tennis

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