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Drugs in sport Doping official: ‘I no longer watch the Tour de France’

Matthias Kamber, pictured at a news conference in 2011, sees little progress internationally against doping in sport

(Keystone)

Switzerland’s top anti-doping expert has criticised international sports federations as lagging behind some of the improvements made by national regulators such as those he oversees.

Matthias Kamber, director of Switzerland’s official anti-doping agency, says the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 1999 was a major step forward but there has been little international progress since then.

Kamber, who has headed the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) since 2008, points to the efforts made by his US counterparts in the case of cyclist Lance Armstrong as an example. Armstrong won the Tour de France seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005 but was stripped of those victories in 2012 after a protracted doping scandal.

“All major strides in recent years are attributable to national agencies,” he told the Zurich paper Tages-Anzeiger in an interview on Thursday.

He says challenges include the fact that international sports federations want to remain autonomous while trying to become more transparent, and many of WADA’s 35 accredited laboratories around the world are too small and underfunded.

By contrast, Swiss athletes are required to specify where they are every day so that they can be subjected to unannounced inspections. That’s a credit, he says, to Switzerland’s efforts, which could be seen as a “role model” to clean up sports.

“International organisations only react when there is public pressure”, he added.

Nevertheless, Kamber admitted he no longer watched the Tour de France, “because I can’t believe that the winners can cope with such a three-week torture without cheating”.

Cycling had made a lot of progress, he said, but it still wasn’t transparent enough. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have any doubts.”

‘Widespread cheating’

Kamber’s comments come days after media reports that 32 medal winners at the world’s six top city marathons were among the hundreds of long-distance runners with suspicious blood test results revealed in a leak, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

The leaked blood tests have jolted the world of international athletics since a German broadcaster and a British newspaper first published reports about them a week ago.

Britain’s Sunday Times and Germany’s ARD say the results from the database of the sport’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), show evidence of widespread cheating among long-distance runners.

Last week, the news organisations said the data showed that between 2001 and 2012 a third of Olympic and world championship endurance and middle-distance running medals had been won by athletes who, at some point in their careers, had given a suspicious blood test.

The Sunday Times said many of the suspect runners had also won medals in the six most prestigious city marathons: Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York and Tokyo.

The IAAF, which has defended its drugs testing procedures strongly and refutes suggestions it has turned a blind eye to doping, says it is cooperating with WADA in an investigation into the allegations.  

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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