Closing the Gap

April 28, 2014
Only dumbells do drugs

As I sit each night and watch the “war of attrition” known as the Stanley Cup Play-Offs, I am amazed at the endurance, strength and speed, not to mention courage of these NHL athletes. I also marvel at the similarly amazing feats of athleticism of pro basketball players and our own Toronto Raptors now that the NBA Play-Offs are underway. But still, as I watch, I can’t help but wonder if any of these athletes are on performance-enhancing drugs. Such is the world of pro sport we live in today. The brilliance of all great athletic performances is dulled somewhat by the shadow cast over them by doping.

At the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), we are concerned about the cloud of doubt that surrounds not just the professional athlete, but all athletes that perform for and on behalf of our country. But, there is hope that the cloud may be lifted in the near future for those sports who choose to lift it. The new and revised World Anti-Doping Code (Code) will come into effect on January 1, 2015, and with it a new set of rules and stricter demands on the how those rules are to be implemented. The new rules close the gap on the doping cheats and the stricter rules on implementation force sports to pay more than lip service to the rules.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency’s reasoned decision of the Lance Armstrong case taught us how sophisticate the cheats can be. The Australian Crime Commission Report served notice that organized crime had moved into the doping business in a big way. And, our own Canadian Border Services Agency data on drug seizures indicates that anabolic steroids is the second most commonly seized drug coming into our country. If you are running a sport in this country and you look at this data, and you tell yourself your sport doesn’t have a doping problem, chances are you may be missing something.

In Canada, the CCES has engaged our sport community in extensive consultations around the revisions to the Code over the past two years. The new rules are now set. What remains is how to implement them in Canada. The process to determine how best to implement the new Code in Canada has now been set in motion with the release of the initial draft of the Canadian Anti-Doping Program (our version of the Code in Canada). The first most important milestone in the process will be the 2014 Canadian Anti-Doping Program Symposium being held in Ottawa on May 12 and 13.

All national sport and multi-sport organizations have been invited to the Symposium which will be highly consultative and interactive. Together we will explore the implications of the new Code and how to best implement it in Canada. As our athletes are central to this issue, their participation is vital. All sports are therefore being urged to do everything they can to ensure their athletes can participate.

This is an important opportunity for all of us committed to clean sport to help close the gap on the doping cheaters and help lift the cloud of doping on our athletes’ performances. Sadly for all clean athletes in the NHL and NBA, it is unlikely that either will adopt the 2015 version of the Code into their rules. The price to pay may be greater than they think.