Mid-term Report on the New Canadian Anti-Doping Program

cces-2015cadp-thumb-e.pngHalfway through the adoption period for the new Canadian Anti-Doping Program (CADP), there’s reason for both optimism and concern.

Let’s start with the glass half full: the new program is working.

The revised CADP was introduced on January 1 this year to meet the more stringent requirements of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code as well as Canada’s obligations under the UNESCO Convention on Doping in Sport. It also ensures that national sport organizations comply with the rules of their respective international federations.

Through the efforts of our staff at the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) and the active engagement of close to 80 national sport organizations, multi-sport organizations and national sport centres, Canada’s anti-doping program is more comprehensive than ever before.

Toronto 2015 Doping Violations

Over a three-month period (April 1 - June 30) leading up to the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, a total of 1,037 urine tests were conducted on Canadian athletes under the new CADP, almost double the number conducted during the same period last year (571).  

The expanded testing program, coupled with a greater emphasis on intelligence gathering and targeted investigations, resulted in the CCES asserting nine anti-doping rule violations involving Canadian athletes in the final stages of qualifying for Toronto 2015.

In one instance, careful tracking of whereabouts information led to a targeted test that confirmed the athlete was using prohibited substances. In other instances, intelligence gathered through the Report Doping Hotline, along with a series of interviews, led to two athletes being targeted for testing and being found to be using prohibited substances.  

In these three cases, the athletes are banned from participation in sport for four years. In total, nine athletes withdrew before final Team Canada selections.

By any objective measure, Toronto 2015 was an unqualified success for Canada. Our athletes delivered record-setting podium performances. Canadians of all ages were inspired and, once again, sport brought the country together like almost nothing else can.

Proactive Prevention

Now: Imagine how that storyline would have changed had one or more Canadian athletes been caught for doping during the Games. It’s not hard to picture the headlines or envision the widespread negative reaction. 

It’s never good news when an athlete is caught for doping, but the pre-Games results confirm that the expanded CADP is doing what it’s supposed to do – maintain a fair and level playing field for the vast majority of athletes who compete clean.

Beyond the testing conducted for the Toronto Games, the CCES has asserted a further nine violations so far this year, for a total of 18 since the beginning of January. That’s more than we had in all of 2014.

The glass-half-full perspective also recognizes that efforts to prevent doping infractions through education are more comprehensive than ever before. Through the first eight months of this year, more than 20,500 national team, university and college athletes have accessed our enhanced e-learning module. It stands to reason that the more we do to educate our athletes, the better the chances of reducing both intentional and inadvertent anti-doping violations.

Reality Check

Switching lenses, a glass-half-empty view would likely focus on the fact that the record number of violations this year confirms that doping can impact any sport.

Under the new CADP, there are confirmed violations this year in two sports without any prior history of doping. Once again, we’re reminded that this is an issue for all of us, no matter the sport.

As I look ahead to the end of the adoption period on March 31, 2016, there will be further reason for both optimism and concern.

Ultimately, the experience so far under the new CADP tells me two things: first, that doping remains a reality in Canadian sport and, second, that our collective efforts to invest in education, increased testing, intelligence gathering, and targeted investigations are working.