By David Owen

Howman PCC_2011-12-011December 2 - Science alone is no longer enough to catch all drug cheats, a leading figure in the fight against doping in sport has admitted.

In a sobering resume of the balance of forces in this high-profile battle in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games, David Howman (pictured), director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) told the Partnership for Clean Competition Conference in New York: "We all should know by now that the fight against doping in sport has reached the stage where science alone will not eradicate cheating or often even detect it.

"Sample collection and analysis is getting more expensive.

"The rules appear to some to be getting more complicated.

"Laboratory directors and scientists in general continue to be conservative.

"Indeed, it may be suggested that some err in favour of not returning adverse results for fear of the legal process and the time required to give evidence under attack."

Scientists, he argued, in general did not enjoy "the adversarial approach of lawyers".

Meanwhile, the "clever cheating athlete" was becoming "better at cheating, more sophisticated and funded extensively".

That athlete, he said, "might now be confidently of the view that he or she will avoid detection under the historical approach".

He went on: "From micro dosing to manipulation, the clever doper, aided, abetted and considerably financed by clever entourage members, continues to evade detection through the analytical process.

"And we continue to be haunted by the impunity with which, for example, many treat human growth hormone."

Howman asserted that cost was being used as "an excuse" by those responsible for anti-doping programmes not to undertake the best possible approach.

"For example, not all samples are analysed for erythropoietin (EPO).

"With only 36 positive cases for EPO being found in 2010, from 258,000 samples surely indicates that."

The sport industry, he said, was now estimated to be a $800 billion (£510 billion/€594 billion) a year business.

"Spending $300 million (£191 million/€223 million) to protect the integrity of such a business does not seem to be an awful amount of money."

What, he asked rhetorically, was the real prevalence of doping?

"Analytical findings suggest about 1-2 per cent, but recent studies suggest double digits," he said.

To deal with the current situation, Howman argued, investigations needed to form "an integral part" of any effective anti-doping programme.

He disclosed that a new document had now been sent to all anti-doping organisations worldwide including "good, practical, sensible suggestions" on how to go about working with law enforcement, customs, immigration and other officials "in order to properly and appropriately share information".

He also urged his audience to "realise that, in most cases, it is not athletes acting alone who defeat everything for which they should stand.

"They are assisted, counselled, sometimes tricked and occasionally forced into the downward spiral of cheating."

He acknowledged that "we still do not really have an appropriate and consistent way of ensuring that the athlete entourage, when responsible for aiding and abetting, persuading and supplying, can be sanctioned.

"We must continue to search for ways and means of globally achieving this."

The full text of the speech can be accessed here.

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