Primo Nebiolo () © Copyright
General News Lausanne, Switzerland

Nebiolo addresses World Conference on Doping in Sport

ASOIF and IAAF President Dr Primo Nebiolo addressed the World Conference on Doping in Sport

A few months ago, the leaders of the International Olympic Federations gathered here in Lausanne to discuss with the International Olympic Committee the preparations and strategy for this conference.

In the short time since then, the Olympic movement has gone through some of the most difficult and challenging moments of its long history.

On behalf of the Olympic Federations, I would first like to express our full support of the IOC and its leadership for the swift and decisive measures they have taken to restore faith in the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games. At a time like this when strength, wisdom and determination are vital in reinforcing trust in the Olympic Movement, experience and leadership cannot be questioned.

At the same time, I am convinced that the recent series of events must not lessen our conviction here today to send a clear message to the world. We must show that sport – in co-operation with the leading international and national institutions – is ready and able to face the problem of doping in sport with authority, integrity and transparency.

In this delicate moment for the Olympic Movement, the media and the general public need a strong signal from all of us as to whether we really wish to take this problem seriously. The world is watching us to see whether we lead of whether we hesitate. I don’t think there is any question that the time now is to lead.

Indeed, this is an ideal opportunity for us, especially those of us who have a leadership role in world sport to demonstrate that we care about the most fundamental element of our activity and our real reason for being here today: the athletes. As responsible leaders, we have an opportunity to show that we truly and deeply care for the well being of the athletes of today as well as future generations of athletes to come.

We mustn’t forget that – without the athletes – there would be no games, no governing bodies, no sponsor contracts, nor development programmes.

I think I can speak on behalf of the Olympic Federations when I say that I welcome this World Conference on Doping in Sport. We welcome the opportunity to unify our efforts and our forces, to learn from each other and to help each other in taking real, concrete measures for the better of sportsmen and women around the world.

As the organisations responsible for the day to day governance of sports on the Olympic Programme, the Federations are in a unique position to provide practical, proven experience into how the problem of doping can be faced realistically. Many, if not all Federations, have suffered the pains of doping first-hand. As we have developed the competitions and the grassroots programmes that provide the basis for athletes to train and prosper, many Federations have also created special structures to face this issue in a systematic manner.

As President of the Association of Summer Olympic Federations – but also President of a sport that plays a key role in the success of the Olympic Games – I have been for many years now advocating a common position on doping in the Olympic Movement. And I will continue to do so. Doping is not just a danger for the athletes of one or two sports, but a real and serious risk for all athletes, regardless of the sport.

The events of last summer, and many other revelations in the meantime, have not only illustrated the dangers of doping for all sports, but have also pushed many of us to be here today.

Until now, there has been a wide variation in the rules, procedures and sanctions applied in anti-doping policies of the different sport Federations. In January of 1994, the Federations and the IOC made the first historic step towards unifying such policies by accepting a list of principles that would guide us in this fight. In the meantime, many Federations have worked hard to abide by these principles, but it has unfortunately become clear that further action is required.

As an example of a leading Federation in this campaign, I can of course only speak on behalf of the International Amateur Athletic Federation. In fact, few international organisations have done as much in the fight against doping as Athletics in terms of research, testing in and out of competition, sanctions and, above all, education. In 1998 alone, the IAAF carried out thousands of tests both in and out of competition on athletes from all around the world spending millions of dollars. We have vigorously defended our jurisdiction and authority in enforcing some of the world’s most severe doping rules. We have taken such a defence all the way to the Supreme Court of the USA and won. We have also had court cases heard in Germany, Russia, France, Great Britain and in each case our Federation has learned important lessons on how to protect our authority, but also importantly, how to protect the rights of all athletes who wish to compete in fair, open conditions.

We have been severe in our efforts, but our experience not only confirms that these sanctions are defendable, but the great majority of athletes are in agreement that severity is one of the most effective and important means of creating a level playing field. The IAAF has, until now, been one of the leaders in this fight. And we are ready to continue in this direction, but we cannot make this battle alone.

That is why this World Conference is so important. An opportunity exists here to show the outside world that all of sport is united in its conviction that doping can be faced in a legitimate and believable way.

As with the meeting last November, however, my hope and intention today is not to speak about the merits or misgivings of one group or another and that we can go beyond our differences to realise how important it is to be united in our efforts. Only through unity can the Olympic Movement be defended and trusted in this important campaign. The future of the Olympic Games depends on our efforts here.

In this regard, I think it is important to recall the key role played by the International Olympic Federations, not only inside the Olympic Games, but also in the daily activity of world sport. This is an important responsibility that the Federations take very seriously and which will not and cannot be handed over to some outside institutions.

Some outside observers who may not know or understand the Olympic Movement have chosen to be critical of our efforts in the past. Such criticism has been particularly hard to understand when coming from areas of the world where certain professional sports openly disregard any serious anti-doping programme. The simple truth of the matter is that the Federations and Olympic Movement have spent more money, done more testing and generally taken more seriously this problem than any other international institution.

Naturally, however, we in the Olympic Movement understand now that we cannot be successful in these efforts without the support of lawmakers and the national governments. But we also need for the same national institutions to understand and to respect the unique nature of sport governing bodies and the key role they have played in developing sport over the last 100 years. We advocate an approach of co-operation and collaboration with national governments, but we will also strive to defend the autonomy and independence of sport and the bodies that govern sport.

Finally, I would like to underline that the International Federations strongly favour the creation of a truly independent international doping agency. This agency must be in a position to combine all the forces of the sporting world and outside institutions in order to carry out – as the international authority – the just fight against this grave problem.

(Primo Nebiolo)