The two-day Tackling Doping in Sport Conference took place at Twickenham Stadium on Wednesday 16 and Thursday 17 March 2011, bringing together the world’s leading experts in the field of anti-doping.
World Anti-Doping Agency Director General David Howman dominated discussions on the first day, following his presentation on the future of anti-doping, when he warned of a rise of criminal activity in sport.
Discussing the biggest challenges to the fight against doping in sport, he said: “My information is we now know the criminal underworld controls a significant proportion of world sport”.
Stressing that close liaison with law enforcement agencies "far more experienced and knowledgeable than any one of us", was vital to the success of this battle, he added: "They say the underworld is involved in betting, in distributing steroids and it's the same jokers, not anybody new," he said. "I have been saying this for five or six years and now Interpol are justifying it. They now have the numbers and the information and they are really worried about it."
Howman also warned against complacency in the fight against performance-enhancing drugs, warning that there are "sophisticated cheats" who are increasingly able to evade detection. "The sophisticated, cheating athlete is becoming very good at cheating. This is not new, but at the top end I think it's becoming a big challenge for us."
Howman touched upon the efficacy of collecting blood for the biological passport, a subject which was later discussed in detail first by Pat McQuaid, President of the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale), and then again the following morning by Dr Michael Ashenden of SIAB Research alongside Paul Scott, or Scott Analytics.
Also looking forward to more advanced methods of combating doping was USADA Chief Executive, Travis Tygart, who closed proceedings for the opening day on the subject of intelligence.
Countdown to London 2012
Since its inception in December 2009, UK Anti-Doping has been quick to move to an intelligence-led approach to testing, with Operations Director Nicole Sapstead presenting on this subject in the context of the up-coming Olympic Games to the 120 international delegates who attended the conference.
On the topic of UK Anti-Doping’s 24-hour confidential Report Doping in Sport hotline, she said: “While we would have like to have seen more take up, what I can tell you is that the quality of information we have received through the hotline has been very good. I would encourage anyone who thinks they have something which may be of interest to pick up the phone and call us.”
Also speaking within the context of the Olympic and Commonwealth Games was Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Richard Budgett, Chief Medical Officer for London 2012, and David Grevemberg, Chief Operating Officer for Glasgow 2014.
Robertson highlighted doping as the most serious threat to any Games, saying: “Running into the Olympic cycle, doping is the most serious threat in sporting terms for the London organising committee.
"Remember that 80 percent of unsecured income that the London organizing committee needs to raise is secured against ticketing.
"If people buying these tickets cease to believe that what they are paying quite large sums of money for is anything other than a fair contest then the integrity of the Games will be lost. It's as simple and complicated as that."
A round table discussion was held on Wednesday afternoon, presenting all those attending with the opportunity to voice their thoughts on the up-coming Code review.
Andy Parkinson, Chief Executive of UK Anti-Doping, said: “The Tackling Doping in Sport conference has been a great success with UK Anti-Doping working in close partnership with Squire Sanders Hammonds and World Sports Law Report.
“Discussions throughout the two days were both topical and engaging, bringing the world’s leading anti-doping experts together for this unique event.
“As we have said time and time again, the fight against doping in sport can only be won through a global approach. The international representation at the conference underlined the fact that doping is a global issue and must be tackled accordingly.
“Let these two days convey a strong message to any athletes, coaches or support personnel coming to London for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, that there are fewer places for cheats to hide. To reiterate the words of Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson, every athlete has the right to compete on a level playing field, and every sports fan deserves to know that their hero is 100% clean. That is what we are here to deliver.”