Australian John Fahey took over from Richard 'Dick' Pound as the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency on January 1 this year. In his first exclusive interview to an Indian newspaper, he talks about his aims and objectives, about the Beijing Olympics, about Indian anti-doping measures and a lot more...
How would your tenure be different from Pound's?
Mr Pound was a very effective President for WADA. He put anti-doping on the map, laid very solid foundations, and, under his leadership, the global fight against doping in sport achieved tremendous progress in a very short period of time.
Every President has his or her own style and personality, and I have mine. I have always believed in facilitating the collective wisdom and talents of those I work with to maximise the organisation's outcomes. The Board and management of WADA are impressive with a diverse range of experience and I will pay great attention to their counsel and guidance. At the same time, I will not be afraid to take the lead when necessary and to engage in the public arena in the interests of WADA's objectives and doping-free sport, as I did recently by criticising Major League Baseball for its continued resistance to implementing meaningful independent anti-doping reform.
Any aims and objectives you have set for yourself? Any new anti-doping policy you would like to implement?
I have several priorities, but one of the most significant ones for me, as a government representative, is to maximise the role of governments in the fight against doping.
A decade ago, governments had little interest in drugs in sport; they left it to sporting bodies. Now they recognise that doping poses a serious threat to public health. It is not limited to the elite-level athletes — it now encompasses the public in general, the kids in the gym and in local sports competitions, who are very much affected by this insidious disease.
The Sports Movement and governments have clearly indicated their desire to work together through the strengthened World Anti-Doping Code to ensure they are effective in dealing with cheats and returning the culture of sport to an overwhelming dominance of fair play.
Being an Olympic year, how would you like to increase the vigil of your officials and marshals to trace cheaters?
The International Olympic Committee is responsible for anti-doping at Olympic Games. WADA cooperates very closely with the IOC, the Chinese sporting and governmental authorities, and with all other interested parties such as international sports federations and national anti-doping organisations, to make sure that the best Code-compliant anti-doping programme is in place at the Games.
Following its policy, WADA never announces when new detection methods are implemented. But I can tell you that the tests will be more significant in Beijing than at any other Olympics. So the chances of getting caught, for those who cheat, are greater than ever before.
Will the athletes that come to the Games be clean?
I cannot say that. But I would ask all countries to send honest and clean athletes to Beijing, and I would ask the athletes and those advising, coach or training them to resist any temptation to cheat.
Will you make it mandatory to take blood samples along with the urines samples?
WADA strongly encourages all stakeholders to collect urine and blood samples as part of their testing programme to further detection and deterrence chances. Making blood collection mandatory is a matter that we have been considering for some time and that we will continue to further discuss with stakeholders.
When will India get its accreditation? Are the Indians slow in their process? Or do they lack the right equipments? Do you think Indian athletes are on dope?
The New Delhi laboratory is in the final phase of WADA's accreditation probationary phase. WADA is waiting for the laboratory's final test results and should know in the coming weeks whether or not this laboratory will get its WADA accreditation.
India is an important country that has many opportunities to step up to the plate and prove its commitment to the fight against doping in sport, including by hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2010. WADA will continue to closely monitor the development of India's anti-doping efforts.
It is important to remember that it is not a laboratory which indicates that commitment. It is the country's anti-doping programme which requires partnership between sport and government to ensure samples are collected, in and out of competition, pursuant to the rules.
Have you sorted out anti-doping issues with the FIFA?
FIFA has been for nearly one year now in full compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code. I am encouraged that FIFA and its president Joseph Blatter, who is a member of WADA's Foundation Board, recognise that fighting against doping is essential to protect the integrity of their sport.
We have seen a number of cases involving football players in the past few months, which show that football is certainly not immune to doping. WADA and FIFA appealed a number of doping cases for which the sanction imposed by the national association of the player was not in line with the World Anti-Doping Code. More generally, FIFA and WADA have a good and fruitful cooperation in the fight against doping in sport.