News : Doping – checkers undesirable – sports

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Doping - checkers undesirable - sports

While investigators track down tons of doping in recreational sports, the high-performance industry continues to hide behind its autonomy. This also shows a grotesque case in tennis.

By Thomas Kistner, Johannes Knuth

These were huge numbers that Europol, the European Police Department, launched at the beginning of the week. In 33 states, from Germany to Colombia, investigators had secured 3.8 million doping and drug counterfeits, including 24 tonnes of steroid powder. 17 criminal syndicates and nine secret laboratories were singled out and 839 criminal cases were filed. "Operation Viribus", as the agency has christened its venture, represents the largest ever access to the criminal world of sports doping; the dimension of the finds is terrifying.

Only: The core evil of the pharma contaminated sports operation affects "Viribus" barely. At first glance. The criminal investigators did exemplary networking that what special prosecutors in countries with anti-doping laws have been doing for years: clean out basement labs and fitness centers, expose customer lists and trade routes. As soon as there is an initial suspicion in the area of ​​muscle pumping, these things move forward quickly. The police have strong tools, from the telephone monitoring to the raid. And the recreational doper does not wrap a cocoon of state-granted autonomy as in top-class sports; no hardened official regulates things in the back room. Filthy victories in alpine cross-country tours or in senior tennis, which fill now no official of the association box office.

The top sport is completely different secured. This is the link to "Viribus". Because if the cheating mentality in the leisure sector grows into barely measurable, it is high time to question the protective devices in organized top-level sports. There, where all the mythically exaggerated sports heroes frolicking, whose Fabelistungen the ideal for more and more normalsterbliche sports enthusiasts form, who are behind the stars. And there, where officials assert, you fight doping already internally, in the stronghold of autonomy - while supposedly tough rules are softened by perfidious additional agreements.

Example complacent? For years running a tough struggle of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) in Bonn with the World Tennis Federation ITF. It is about unannounced tests at the prestigious women's tournament in Stuttgart, and who thinks that the Nada at least in Germany, a country with anti-doping law, may control anytime, anywhere must recognize: No, it must not. Not when an association such as the ITF pulls out hidden registers and bravely assists the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Doping sinner: Maria Sharapova at the tournament in Stuttgart 2017.

(Photo: Bernd Weissbrod / dpa)

This dispute runs in silence. Since 2017, Germany's investigators fail at the stadium door when they want to test women's tennis in the Porsche Arena. Maria Scharapowa made a comeback there after a 15-month ban on doping, and the Bonn investigators were irritated in advance that the ITF had planned no tests - not even with the Russian wildcard player, who promptly pushed ahead to the semi-finals. The Nada also indicated to the ITF that tests could and should be carried out, but the association refused, referring to Appendix J4 in the Wada Code. As a result, Nada would have had to announce its intention to control the ITF at least 35 days prior to the tournament. 35 days before? The Nada turned to the Wada, but it supported the ITF. When the Bonn nonetheless sent a team to Stuttgart to test the Russian brand ambassador of the tournament's main sponsor, the checkers were denied access to the stadium. Just a misunderstanding?

In 2018, the Nada tried again. Already on January 4, she informed the ITF about planned competition tests of the sports year, also for the Porsche Grand Prix in April. The explicit wish to carry out own tests in Stuttgart in addition to the ITF took place on April 24th. Because the German investigators had "learned that the ITF controls only in the first rounds, so we set controls for the final days," says Nada board member Lars Mortsiefer. But that, too, went nowhere; The ITF found additional Nada testing in the final days pointless. "We do not believe," ITF Anti-Doping Manager Stuart Miller wrote at the time, "that the Nada should carry out additional testing in the face of the controls already carried out in the Tennis Testing Program."

Amazing: The association is testing some athletes at the start and thinks there will be no need towards the end when it comes to a € 124,000 prize. On SZ request, if the ITF really sees it that way. Miller says, "No." But he does not explain his letter at the time, and the question of concrete test figures in Stuttgart from 2017 to 2019 remains open. Instead, he writes cloudily: "An effective anti-doping program is diverse and unpredictable." Use strategies for deterrence and detection. "That means something like that can be tested during some or all tournaments." Or not, like in Stuttgart. In addition, Miller emphasizes that the association has always acted in accordance with the Wada rules. What is true: It is the rules that slow down unannounced inspections in a bureaucratic way, thank Appendix J4.

Nevertheless, in 2018 the Nada sent checkers to the arena again. Again they were not allowed in. The agency had now even heeded the grotesque annex of the ITF and her test request announced much longer than the required 35 days before the tournament. For the following day, the Nada even voted with the State Office of Criminal Investigation Baden-Württemberg to gain access to the sports venue. However, this should only be done "under consideration of proportionality" if German players are still in the tournament. That was not the case, the attempt was omitted.

Doping Hunter: Lars Mortsiefer.

(Photo: Alexander Heinl / dpa)

In February 2019, the Nada again sent an overview of their important competitions in Germany to the ITF. This announced itself on the same day and submitted an overview of their tournaments, where they test themselves - including the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart. "To date," complains Nada boss Mortsiefer, there is no agreement with the ITF, because this does not accept the conditions of Nada. "Therefore, Nada has no further knowledge of whether the ITF-targeted tests are properly conducted and analyzed in Stuttgart."

The Wada last changed the grotesque appendage. But that did not help much

The Wada does not bother on SZ request nor on it nor on Appendix J4. One knows these "earlier discussions between Nada and ITF in Germany", announce a speaker. But the 35-day rule? It was important "for reasons of coordination", one had to make arrangements and avoid multiple checks. Along the way, trade associations are given the right to be informed of surprise tests outside their own test programs long before their events. When asked about the meaning of these precautions, which completely undermines the principle of effective surprise and goal controls, the Wada evades. After all, there have been "minor changes" to the appendix. However, they now look like that may be tested externally in exceptional cases: For this, clear suspicions for the target control must now be revealed.

This is what the so-called anti-doping fight looks like: an association controls the controllers. And in Germany, the heads of Nada and the State Office of Criminal Investigation must confer in person to pave the way for independent tests; and fail, on their own territory. The world sport continues to say that its rules in practice beat state law.

This too is a lesson learned from the recent criminological investigations of the investigators, from "Operation Aderlass" and "Viribus": The state is working more and more frequently through doping mastics, not only in general but also in top-class sports - supported by anti-doping Laws and more and more frequently also of clues he receives from some nadas. And the sport? Creeps deeper into his autonomy. The football, this highly-tuned sprint endurance division, where already a quarter of a billion euros are loosened for a kicker transfer, has not reported any prominent doping cases for years. Or he just sits out affairs like those of the fraud-stricken London doctor Mark Bonar.

Even top-class sport has its shadow. But they are outshined by glossy images

The International Olympic Committee, for its part, launched the International Testing Authority (ITA) a while ago. As a service provider, it is set to take over control procedures from more and more associations. Of course, this ITA is sold as completely independent. In doing so she reveals the familiar pattern. Tennis honorary president Francesco Ricci Bitti, 77, sits next to an IOC representative and exemplifies the alleged independence: from 1999 to 2015, he served as ITF chief, he sat in the IOC and has been a member since 2001 to the Board of Wada. Since 1999 he is also a mediator on - of course completely independent - Sports Court Cas in Lausanne. Where also IOC, ITA and Wada reside.

So "Viribus" stands beside the visible also for the invisible part of the fraud problem. In the professional field there is autonomy, that is where the problem arises. The competitive sport delivers always great pictures for an enthusiastic base: Strong is beautiful! Success in sport means success at work! Buy what your heroes promote! It is true that top-class sport often does not release people who are fit for the day, who are in danger of becoming ill, into real life. This is confirmed by studies and surveys for years, as well as the broad use of doping. But this reality is overshadowed by the magic of heroic images, when the world is watching football, tennis and Tour de France again.

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