Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Screengrab. WADA director general David Howman.
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'Maybe prison is the only way to stop doping', says WADA chief
RTE will tonight broadcast a programme which examines the influences of science and technology on sport.

WORLD ANTI-DOPING Agency (WADA) director general David Howman says jail sentences could be the only way to deter athletes from using illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

Speaking to Irish journalist Ian O’Riordan as part of an excellent RTE documentary which is due to be aired tonight (9.35pm), the governing body chief expresses his belief that the responsibility lies with the athletes, ahead of the London Olympics.

“My job is to makes sure that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) is running the best possible anti-doping programmes and they’re doing that,” Howman tells O’Riordan.

“The responsibility is on the shoulders of the athletes who compete and those who advise those athletes – not the IOC. I thinks sometimes we miss that issue. If athletes weren’t cheating, we wouldn’t have a problem.

“There are some who would suggest that governments might need to do something about it and make doping a crime. Some countries have it. I don’t know if the world wants to got that far.

You’ve got the balance between people saying let’s keep it in sport and you’ve got the people who say how can we stop them from doing it. Maybe prison is the only way.”

The programme examines how advances in science and technology have improved conditions for athletes and questions whether, with the rise drug abuse, sport has been stripped of its purity. O’Riordan interviews Irish runner Martin Fagan, who tested positive for EPO, as well as meeting Olympic hopefuls Colin Griffin and Rob Heffernan to talk about the importance of altitude training.

He also speaks to Kerry O’Callaghan of Glaxosmithkline, the Pharmaceutical giants which will run the anti-doping operation at this month’s Games and is given a run-down on the extensive, round-the-clock work that will be undertaken.

“We’re doing more drug tests than ever before,” O’Callaghan says. “We’re testing for more prohibited substances. Over half the athletes competing will be tested as will every single medalist. The samples are collected by a secure line, taken to the drug testing lab in Harlow North London, then the process really starts.

We have 24 hours to get every test done on that one sample. We are looking for 240 substances on each sample and within 24 hours we know if it contains something it shouldn’t. It’s a very rigorous process.”

The issue of legal supplements in sport, what exactly is in them and where they come from is looked at. Professor Brendan Buckley of the Irish Sports Council gives his opinion that there is something “exploitative” about the growing trend of school-going teenagers taking substances in order to progress on the sporting field, while former international rugby player and journalist Tony Ward also discusses the current situation in Ireland.

Watch Faster, Higher, Stronger on RTE One tonight at 9.35pm.

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