'Whereabouts' rule causes controversy

ADAMS logo (c) WADA. The online system into which athletes report their whereabouts.


By Stine Alvad
The new WADA whereabouts rule requiring athletes to report their whereabouts more comprehensively is proving to be very unpopular. EU is urging WADA to reconsider the rule, UEFA director Platini recommends not to follow the rule and Belgian athletes have filed a court challenge to decide whether the rule is violating human rights.

The only two month old whereabouts rule has already been subject to a lot of criticism from prominent sports people. Besides from a group of 65 Belgian filing a court challenge, athletes from all kind of sports around the world have expressed their discontent with the new rule.

Official sports bodies such as FIFA and UEFA has also been complaining. “I totally support the recommendation not to follow Wada’s code. Wada can find footballers for 330 days out of the year. I think they have a right to be left alone for one month each summer”, Platini said at a press meeting this month in London. In Sports Illustrated, FIFA medical committee chairman Michel d’Hoogue compares the new rule to inquisition.

The EU Sports Commission wants WADA to suspend the rule while EU determines the legality of it. "I would urge the president of WADA for the sake of clarity and cohesion between many stake holders, WADA should put on hold this article and await the opinion of our working party on this and then make a final decision," EU sports commissioner Jàn Figel said in an interview with Reuters.

The new element in the revised whereabouts rule is that the athletes need to report their whereabouts in advance for periods of three months. On top of that they need to be in a reported place for one full hour each day seven days a week, where they can be subjects of surprise tests. Failing to be present at a surprise test three times can lead to suspension. The old rule required reported whereabouts for only a portion of a reported hour and for only five days a week.

The new amendments to the rule have been added to put an end to the out-of-competition doping, that WADA so far has not been able to monitor this closely.

Since the critique of the rule started, WADA officials have been attending various meetings trying to defend and debate on the rule. “The system is far more flexible than they [the athletes] are led to believe”, Howman said, according to ESPN.com.

He finds that the athletes have not been sufficiently informed on the rule by their sport’s governing body. "On an international level there was discontent, not so much about the new rules as the way they were introduced. They are unhappy about that and we heard the unhappiness," Howman said to the Guardian. "Does that mean there'll be a whole new consultation process and we'll start all over again? No. But it does mean we've given them an avenue for expression, which we had wrongly assumed was taking place through each individual sport."

According to ESPN.com, Howman stressed that the out-of-competition testing is a cornerstone in the anti-doping work and that not complying with anti-doping rules makes the athletes “not responsible either to their sport or to the players they are competing with”.

IOC president Jacques Rogge has also been trying to calm down the minds of the athletes. “Sport has to pay a price for suspicion,” Rogge said last week at an IOC-EU liaison office in Brussels. “The best way to alleviate the suspicion is to allow for out-of-competition testing.”, he said according to AP.

"So if you're going to show yourself as a clean athlete, you make yourself available. You're not going to be tested day in day out." Howman said to the Guardian.


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