UNESCO General Conference adopts International Convention Against Doping in SportThe International Convention Against Doping in Sport was adopted unanimously by the UNESCO General Conference meeting in Paris for its 33 d session. This is the first time a legal instrument aimed at eradicating doping is both binding and universal.
A global response to a global problem, such is the challenge put to the new Convention. It supplies governments with a legal framework for an international harmonization of efforts in the fight against a scourge that flouts the ethical and social values of sport while putting the health of athletes at risk.
The last Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 revealed a record number of cases of doping. Furthermore, in France, according to the Conseil de prévention et de lutte contre le dopage (CPLD), nearly 5% of all samples taken last year from professional athletes showed use of illegal substances or procedures.
While doping by professional athletes is often headline news, there is little talk of the use of doping agents among amateur athletes or the general public, although this too is growing steadily. According to a European Commission study in 2002, nearly 6% of all clients of fitness centres in several European countries admitted to taking doping agents to enhance their performance. A survey by the University of Quebec discovered the same year that 26% of amateur athletes questioned had used substances banned by the Olympic Committee at least once in the last 12 months.
The International Convention Against Doping in Sport fills a gap. Most of the existing standard setting tools, whether national, regional or international, emphasise repression and anti-drug testing, methods which, according to experts, are limited in their effectiveness. Others, such as the International Olympic Charter against Doping in Sport (1988), are not universally legally binding.
The new Convention goes beyond testing and sanctions. It incites States Parties to “undertake, within their means, to support, devise or implement education and training programs on anti-doping” in order to raise public awareness of the negative effects of doping on health and on the ethical values of sport, as well as provide information on the rights and responsibilities of athletes and on testing procedures. Signatories will also promote “active participation by athletes and athlete support personnel in all facets of the anti-doping”.
Regarding testing and sanctions, the new Convention stipulates that all the world’s athletes be subjected to the same rules and regularly tested, with uniform sanctions for any infraction. It commits the States Parties to adopt measures in line with the principles stated in the World Anti-Doping Code of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), adopted during the World Conference on Doping in Sport held in Copenhagen in 2003.
The Code and international standards establishing the technical and operational aspects (prohibited substances, therapeutic use exemption, laboratories) together set universal rules and procedures concerning all the dimensions of anti-doping testing. The Convention calls for a procedure that would quickly submit to all States Parties for their approval the list of prohibited substances and the exceptions, as drawn up and regularly updated by WADA.
The States Parties to the Convention commit “to foster international cooperation between States Parties and leading organisations in the fight against doping in sport, in particular with WADA [...] to encourage and facilitate the sports organisations and anti-doping organisations within their jurisdiction to carry out the doping controls in a manner consistent with the Code including no-advance notice, out-of-competition and in-competition testing” as well as to “facilitate the timely movement of duly authorised doping control teams across borders when conducting doping control activities”. They also commit to promote cooperation between testing laboratories and to “mutually recognise the doping control procedures and test results management, including the sport sanctions thereof, of any anti-doping organisation that are consistent with the Code.”
The Conference of Parties is the ruling body of the Convention and is responsible for its implementation. The WADA is invited as an advisory body to the Conference of Parties while UNESCO provides the Secretariat.
The elaboration of the new instrument was proposed during the Round Table of Sports Ministers that gathered 360 participants from 103 countries at UNESCO in January 2003. The idea was endorsed at the 32nd session of the General Conference in 2003. The Convention draft was then developed with input from representatives of 95 countries and the financial contribution of 9 Member States: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Island, Japan, Norway, New Zealand and Sweden. The Convention will go into effect once it has been ratified by 30 Member States, preferably before the next winter Olympic Games scheduled for January 2006 in Turin.
Photo © UNESCO/Sergio Santimano