WADA aims to catch dopers with drug makers’ help

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — World Anti-Doping Agency leaders believe their collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry will help catch more drug cheats.

“I think this year will provide further results in that area,” WADA director general David Howman said Tuesday.

Howman said drug companies have been approaching WADA with offers of help after Swiss manufacturer Roche Holding played a key role in catching cheaters at the 2008 Tour de France.

Riders used the new blood-boosting hormone CERA, a third generation version of EPO, thinking that it could not be traced.

Roche had marketed CERA under the brand name Mircera, and intended it for use by patients with kidney disease to boost the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. But Roche had alerted WADA to the drug’s potential abuse by athletes four years earlier and several Tour de France riders were caught.

Stage winners Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Piepoli of Italy were forced out during the race. Third-place finisher Bernhard Kohl of Austria and Germany’s Stefan Schumacher, who won both time trials, also were caught two months later when the French anti-doping agency developed a new blood test for CERA.

“We are talking with the industry in other parts of the world so that we partner in projects similar to the CERA project,” Howman said.

WADA has an agreement with the French government that ensures cooperation with manufacturers there, Howman said. The agency is also in talks with the European Union to develop partnerships across the 27-member bloc.

“Any new substance that is in the process of research and development might potentially be abused by athletes,” Howman said. “Therefore, we have to be alert to that progress.”

In other developments:

— WADA will hold an international summit in 2013 to review the anti-doping code before an updated version is introduced Jan. 1, 2015. A host city for the conference will by chosen this year, Howman said.

— WADA’s controversial “whereabouts rule” for out-of-competition testing is still being reviewed one year after taking effect.

Howman said the rule will be reassessed in May by WADA’s ruling board after consultation with sports federations and anti-doping agencies.

Some athletes claim their privacy has been invaded by the rule, which requires them to give advance notice of their whereabouts and be available for surprise visits for one hour each day.

Belgian tennis players Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse recently received one-year bans for whereabouts violations, despite never failing a drug test. But the International Tennis Federation lifted their suspensions last month.

— WADA president John Fahey said governments — who fund the agency’s work equally with the International Olympic Committee — should share intelligence between law-enforcement agencies to stop the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs.

Fahey said an athlete’s entourage should also be targeted for sanctions if they helped in doping. State funding could be taken from coaches, while doctors and lawyers could have their professional registration affected.

“I would like every country to examine that and improve these laws,” Fahey said.

— WADA has not yet broken the code of silence among athletes who dope, Howman said.

Anti-doping rules allow athletes to receive a shorter suspension if they provide information about the supply of banned drugs, but the incentive has not been widely accepted. The WADA code calls for a standard two-year ban for a first offense, and four years in the most serious cases.