The Anti-Doping in Sports Consensus Meeting was held at the Home of FIFA in Zurich on Friday, 29 November 2013.
The conference, hosted by FIFA in collaboration with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and various international sports federations under the heading 'Time for change', was attended by experts from various professional backgrounds, who exchanged ideas, established the current position on a range of issues and discussed new strategies and methods of fighting doping in sport.
One of the main topics of conversation was the biological profiling of athletes, launched at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013. The profile, which comprises both the haematological parameters in the blood and the steroid profile in urine, is regarded as the best method of detecting the use of performance-enhancing drugs. FIFA are among the pioneers in this area and will continue to promote the development of this new strategy at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
“Every individual has a genetic blueprint of the various hormones and steroids in the body,” explained FIFA’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jiri Dvorak. “That always stays roughly the same, as do the various blood parameters, such as red blood cells. An athlete’s hormonal and steroid profiles, as well as the parameters of the blood, change as soon as he starts to tamper with the natural workings of the body. We are able to observe an individual’s profile over a long period of time and that’s exactly what we want to do.”
“Drug users are becoming intelligent and we have to remain a step ahead,” added Dr Martial Saugy, Director of the Anti-Doping Laboratory in Switzerland (LAD), which will be responsible for the analysis of blood and urine samples during next year’s FIFA World Cup.
Enhanced cost efficiency and testing options
The cost efficiency of the fight against doping was also discussed in depth. “Approximately 300-400 million US dollars are invested in the fight against doping in sport every year,” said Dvorak. “The question of whether this money is invested efficiently is justified. We’re therefore discussing potential cost-effective and deterrent strategies. The time may be right for the development of a customised system which takes account of the risk assessment in each different type of sport and also has to be cost efficient.”
“We have to find new ways of testing athletes, but also have to strike a better balance between the cost and the effectiveness of the fight against doping,” said Dr Mario Zorzoli, Chief Medical Officer of cycling's world governing body UCI. “The exchange of ideas with authorities such as police and customs must continue to be promoted. The fact that an athlete could be tested at any time throughout the year serves to deter potential drug users.”
“The new WADA Code is fantastic, but it’s meaningless until we start to act, so the timing of this conference is perfect. The time for change – by which I mean new and intelligent methods of testing – has come,” declared Richard Budgett, Chief Medical Officer of the IOC.
“This conference is a splendid initiative on the part of FIFA. We’re happy to be part of this event and are always open to new ideas,” said Dr Alan Verdec, Medical Director at WADA. “We’re here to discuss how we can improve the current system. We need strategic measures and new programmes, such as the biological profile. The long-term tracing of values acts as a deterrent. We also need further studies in the athletes’ environment. The fight against doping is a very complex area and requires the constant exchange of ideas and ongoing dialogue.”
Following the meeting, a group of experts will draft a consensus statement, which is due to be published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) in May 2014.