WADA anticipating more state-sponsored doping

World Anti-Doping Agency Director General Olivier Niggli, right, and David Howman. (AP)
Updated 14 October 2016
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WADA anticipating more state-sponsored doping

NEW YORK: After Russia’s widespread violations at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, new World Anti-Doping Agency director general Olivier Niggli says an expanding investigations staff will be on the lookout for state-sponsored cheating in other nations.
“It has happened in one country. I think it would be naive to think it’s the only country,” he said Thursday during an interview. “We have to have our eyes really open and also make sure we act on intelligence and information we might get.”
A report commissioned for WADA found state-directed manipulation of drug-testing results at the Moscow anti-doping lab from at least 2011 through the summer of 2013 and said Russia’s Ministry of Sport advised the laboratory which findings to cover up.
More than 100 Russian athletes, including the entire track and field team, were banned from this year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Niggli, a 46-year-old Swiss lawyer who replaced David Howman on July 1, said WADA will have conversations with FIFA about testing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“It’s still sufficiently far away to hope that things will have changed and improved in Russia,” Niggli said. “It’s very important that we be able to work with the Russians to try to set up a system that is called compliant and that will provide some safeguards so that everybody regains confidence in what is going on there.”
Since the manipulation of Russian drug tests became public, the sample bottle used to collect urine has been improved. The IOC also has proposed that WADA take responsibility for drug testing across sports or establish an affiliate agency to do so.
Niggli rejected a suggestion by Russian Vladimir Putin that athletes with therapeutic use exemptions be excluded from major competitions.
“I don’t think it’s meaningful. I think every human being has a right of being treated for medical conditions,” he said.
Niggli was hired as WADA’s legal director in 2002, added the title of finance director two years later, then left for a law firm in 2011. He returned to WADA two years ago as chief operating officer.
He said WADA accepts the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to cut the suspension of Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova from two years to 15 months. A winner of all four Grand Slam tournaments, Sharapova tested positive for the heart drug meldonium, added to the banned list this year.
“It was slightly surprising that at that level she wouldn’t get warned properly by her entourage,” he said.
WADA was set up by the IOC in 1999 and has a $30 million budget for next year. It already has doubled the size of its unit that scrutinizes possible violations, hiring former Interpol agent Guenter Younger as its new director of intelligence and investigations. Four additional employees likely will be added to the unit by next year.
“Whistle-blower is another obviously important thing,” Niggli said. “Even if we have an investigation department, we’re not the police, we’re not law enforcement. We have no legal means of compelling people to talk to us. It’s only if people want to bring us information that I will get it.”
WADA believes maintaining biological passports for all athletes subject to testing will increase obstacles to doping. The passports establish baseline levels for each athlete, used for comparing with testing results.
“Makes it a lot more complicated for a chemist to get an edge,” Niggli said. “You would see variations which would be totally abnormal there and would trigger some reaction.”
He praised Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NHL for their anti-doping programs, which are subject to labor laws and negotiated with their unions. Among the major US professional leagues, there is one WADA is not working with.
“We don’t have too much relationship at the moment with the NBA,” he said.


Afghan refugee Nadia Nadim scales summit of women’s football

Updated 19 March 2019
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Afghan refugee Nadia Nadim scales summit of women’s football

  • Nadim sets sights on women's World Cup glory this summer.
  • Former Afghan refugee plans to become a doctor once she hangs up her boots for good.

PARIS: “I don’t really think about the past and what happened,” says Nadia Nadim, the daughter of an executed Afghan general who spent years playing football in the fields beside her refugee camp before becoming a Denmark international.
“I am fortunate to be in a situation where I can play football and love what I do,” adds Nadim, a 31-year-old forward who recently completed a switch from Manchester City to Paris Saint-Germain.
Her story is a remarkable one. She was barely 10 years old when her father was killed by the Taliban, her family fleeing the war-torn nation and finding a new home in Denmark.
The journey from her home in Herat was a long one, via Pakistan and then on to Italy with the aid of human traffickers in a bid to get to Britain where she had family. Instead they found refuge in Denmark.
“We came to Denmark in 2000 when I was 10 or 11 years old, and we used to be in this camp, and just beside this camp there was these amazing football fields,” Nadim told AFP.
“Every day after school me and other refugee kids used to go and watch these other guys train. One day I asked if I could join in, and the coach was like ‘yeah, of course’,” she explained.
Away from the turmoil of her homeland at that time, her teenage years in Denmark were peaceful and she enjoyed comics, school — and especially sport.
“I feel happy and I feel grateful every day. I am fortunate to be in a situation where I can play football, be the player I want to be and meet new people all the time,” she says.
Nadim, who has embarked on studies to become a surgeon after her football days are over, feels the sport is a wonderful social leveller.
“There were a lot of kids from different areas ... Arabs, Iraqi, Bosnian, Somalian, nobody could speak the language, and no-one spoke English, so the only way we communicated was with the game,” she recalled of her early days in Denmark.
“Everyone was included, nobody would say ‘No’ because you are different ... that is what I still love about the game, everyone can be a part of it. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Christian or Muslim, it’s a game.”
While women’s equality is relatively advanced in Denmark, Nadim concedes that the situation is far more complicated in Afghanistan.
“In Afghanistan girls are not supposed to do sports, not supposed to wear shorts,” she says.
“But you can use sports to change points of view ... I have seen this myself.
“When I was younger my Mum would be like don’t play football with the boys because the women, my friends, think that there is something else going on.
“I used to hide myself on the street — we used to play street football — because my Mum was like, if they see you they are going to start talking.
“That was so stupid.”
Nadim went on to become a full Denmark international and played in the European championships final in 2017 where she scored the opening goal but could not prevent her side losing 4-2 to the Netherlands.
However, to her enormous chagrin, Denmark did not qualify for the World Cup, which kicks off in France in June.
“I was so disappointed,” she says.
She is circumspect when asked if she thinks the World Cup is going to be a “turning point” for the growth of women’s football.
“I don’t think there’s one tournament or one point that’s going to change everything,” she said. “I don’t think that’s how it works. It’s going to take time, but we’re on the right path.”
When she hangs up her boots, the woman who was forced to flee conflict herself says she hopes to combine her burgeoning medical career with humanitarian work.
“I think Doctors Without Borders do a great job and I’d love to be there for a couple of years to gain experience, but also be in an area where you probably are the only person who can help these people.”