Tough job for Briton leading the fight against doping in sport

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Sir Craig Reedie's new job as WADA president is not as easy one. Photo: Juan Carlos Hidalgo/EFE/PA

Sir Craig Reedie, a man who helped bring the Olympics to London and was part of the team that oversaw the Games’ success last year, has now taken on an equally intimidating project – to lead the fight against doping in sport.

Anointed in Johannesburg as the next president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) he takes over with new, stronger powers at his disposal but also at a time when the outside world could be forgiven for thinking his organisation is losing the war on cheats.

That suspicion is reinforced by the recent scandals surrounding Jamaica and Kenya. Jamaica’s own doping agency managed just one out-of-competition test in the six month lead-in to London 2012, while Kenya has ignored WADA's instruction to set up an independent task force to investigate a surge in the number of their top athletes testing positive recently.

It also appears, just three months before the Sochi Winter Olympics, that the Moscow laboratory charged with testing during the Games is not fit for purpose, leaving WADA to consider moving all testing to another accredited lab, such as in Lausanne.

That would be very costly and embarrassing for everyone involved. They have taken similar, drastic measures against Rio de Janeiro but the Olympics there is two years away; Sochi gets under way in February.

The Iceberg Skating Palace that will be used in the Sochi Winter Olympics. Credit: Valery Matytsin/Photas/Tass/PA

So what precisely are Reedie's new powers?

In short, bans for drugs cheats will double to four years; punishments are now available to sanction coaches or trainers who help or encourage athletes to dope; and there will be a greater emphasis on investigative, intelligence-led work to catch the cheats rather than relying purely on testing.

All well and good, but how would these changes have impacted on Jamaica and Kenya? The answer is not much.

WADA has threatened to recommend sanctions against countries who do not come up to scratch, the ultimate sanction being a ban from the Olympic Games, but it has yet to exercise that option.

What greater deterrent to a country could there be? But threatening exclusion is one thing, doing it is another.

Usain Bolt is said to be getting fed up with answering questions about doping. Credit: VIRGINIE LEFOUR/Belga/PA

So Jamaica, while everyone agrees they lost their way or "dropped the ball" as the outgoing WADA president John Fahey put it, have escaped with a visit from WADA and a public dressing down which has elicited a promise to do better in the future.

Mike Fennell, who is the President of the Jamaican Olympic Association, told me in Johannesburg this week that Usain Bolt is getting fed up with answering questions about doping, rather than reflecting on his latest stunning run.

Fennell accepts that Jamaica must take some responsibility for that, and must be more open about what it is doing to divert the understandable finger of suspicion.

Fennel is also keen to point out that Jamaica has been winning medals since it joined the Olympic movement, not just in the last few Games, so that suspicion is misdirected and ill-informed.

However, he does not hide the tension that clearly exists between his island nation and WADA.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has threatened to refuse to run for Jamaica. Credit: Bernd Thissen/DPA

And it's emerging that tension also exists between Jamaica and its clean athletes. Double gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is reportedly threatening to refuse to run unless her federation stands by its athletes.

Her intervention is a reaction to a senior Jamaican tester's comments that recent high profile doping violations, including Asafa Powell, may be the "tip of the iceburg".

Fraser-Pryce says her success is tainted by these comments and the lack of credibility of her federation's testing record, which why she is considering such a drastic stance.

When athletes threaten to strike, it is clear evidence of just how deep the corrosion goes. The doping issue is destabilising for sport in so many ways.

Andy Parkinson, who heads up the UK's anti-doping agency, put it well very this week, saying: "Ambition and delivery are two very different ideals."

It is Sir Craig Reedie's job to narrow that gap, and it is not an easy one.

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