“Possibly not everyone is aware of what doping control is today”

Sunday marks the last day of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and, as is routine now at all major sporting events, measures to stop drug cheats are a key part of the games.

Aleksandr Derevoedov, head of Russia’s National Anti-doping Organization, told RT that though doping is much older than the World Anti-Doping Agency, for all its imperfection doping control is sufficiently efficient.

RT: A specialized anti-doping control system, ADAMS, was developed especially for these Olympic Games. What is it all about? And how can it help an anti-doping organization?

Aleksandr Derevoedov: ADAMS wasn’t developed specifically for the Olympic Games. It’s been in existence for a rather long time. It’s an administrative system whereby you regulate doping-related procedures. It is rather well-protected, and, most importantly, it contains all information about the athletes’ whereabouts and information about drugs they take, if they do take drugs. For example, if a drug is banned but an athlete has been authorized to take it. These are the two principal parts of the system. There is also a laboratory ADAMS. It contains the entire amount of data from laboratory tests.

RT: Who can use the system? What are the restrictions?

A.D.: It can be used by an athlete, but only on his or her own personal page. We, as an anti-doping organization, see the general picture with regard to the Russian athletes: how many tests were taken, where an athlete is, etc. We see all of that. But only an athlete can amend his or her page.

RT: Given the modern level of medicinal drugs and nutrient additives, can we speak about objectiveness of doping control? After all, a banned drug may be a component of ordinary food products.

A.D.: If we speak about food products, the answer is likely to be “no.” If we speak about nutrient additives as food products, then, regrettably, a nutrient additive turned out by unscrupulous producers may indeed contain some banned chemicals. We simply don’t recommend to athletes to use nutrient additives.

RT: What sports are in the focus? Where do doping attempts happen most often?

A.D.: It is held that there is a group of sports events where certain types of doping might, theoretically and practically, be most effective. There are so-called cyclic sports events, track-and-field, bicycles, skis, skates, rowing and a number of others where doping is very effective. The same goes for weight-lifting and a number of other sports events that draw the most attention.

RT: Is it true that marijuana is often used as doping?

A.D.: Marijuana use, in principle, is not regarded as doping. It’s a so-called light narcotic drug and its use is contrary to the spirit of sport. From this point of view, marijuana doesn’t enhance strength or endurance. It might possibly improve the mood to some extent, but it cannot have much effect on an athlete’s performance. But the use of these drugs is contrary to the spirit of sport, and therefore it is punished if used during competitions, but not outside of competitions.

RT: Can an athlete be expelled from the team for smoking marijuana?

A.D.: Not only can he or she be expelled, but also suspended from competing in any sports events – sometimes for longer, sometimes for shorter periods – and, of course, it also means an expulsion and withdrawal of funds, etc.

RT: What do athletes hope for when they use banned drugs in a total doping-control environment? Like the case of Russia’s woman skier Sidko before Vancouver.

A.D.: It’s a good question, because each one has his own reasons for doping. Possibly not everyone is aware of what doping control is today. Some want to make money, others to satisfy their ambition. Those are the main reasons.

RT: How frequent are the cases where banned drugs get into athletes’ bloodstreams through the fault of doctors?

A.D.: Hard to say. Sometimes it’s very difficult to pinpoint the degree of guilt of all those involved. It is only on sufficiently rare occasions that athletes disclose from where they obtained a banned drug. If we take their accounts for granted, the degree of medical guilt is sufficiently high. But we should keep in mind that it is on the athlete that the Code lays the blame in each case where a banned drug has been detected. In all cases, regardless of whether a drug comes from a doctor, a coach, a relative… The athlete is always to blame.

RT: It’s clear that doping can harm a reputation, but can it harm an athlete’s health?

A.D.: There are studies involving very many types of doping, practically all of them, and a very considerable share, I can’t say most of them, can harm an absolutely healthy person. But we also shouldn’t forget that there is dosing, and if you exceed the dose of even harmless drugs, it can also lead to negative consequences. For erythropoietin, for example, there are cases on record, in bicycle racing, of lethal outcomes on account of thrombosis. Steroids produce a range of grave consequences. It has all been proven. Appropriate studies have been undertaken, and we can say with certainty that the harm done by most types of doping is very considerable.

RT: How perfect does the modern anti-doping system seem to you? Is there a need to change anything?

A.D.: To be sure it is not perfect. But the important thing is that it is being improved from year to year. I’d say it is being improved in every year. We have high plans for the near future. And it shouldn’t be overlooked that WADA is a young organization, it’s just ten years old. Doping is much older. At least ten times older. Or even longer. This is why, for all its imperfection, doping control is sufficiently efficient. One would like it to be more efficient, and we are working on it.