New anti-doping initiative under way

Nick Paterson
Nick Paterson
Drug Free Sport New Zealand and Cycling New Zealand have joined forces to launch a new anti-doping initiative at the Oceania Track Championships, which got under way in Invercargill yesterday.

The ''Speak Out'' programme is designed to encourage and provide people with the confidence to report doping in sport.

Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFSNZ) chief executive Nick Paterson said the organisation had an anonymous 0800 number for people to report doping in the past.

The Speak Out programme is a rebranding, in that sense, but also an increased effort ''to protect the integrity of New Zealand sport''.

''We have a good ethical base across the country but we know we should not take that for granted,'' he said.

''If we do nothing about it then over time it has the potential to erode. So what we are doing is just putting in some really core building blocks so we can maintain our high level of integrity.''

DFSNZ carries out about 1400 tests each year.

Those tests are targeted at high-performance athletes, who are well educated when it comes to sports doping.

However, Paterson said the availability of prohibited substances had meant the anti-doping environment had changed.

Lower-level athletes did not always have the same level of education around doping but were being caught in the net regardless and labelled drug cheats.

''Our aim is not to catch people. It is a function of what we are required to do, but the aim is to deter people from doing anything to start with.

''One of the key drivers across the next 12-18 months, and longer, will be to really increase the reach of our education programme.''

Medsafe's investigation into the Clenbuterol NZ website revealed just how prevalent steroid use was. But a lot of the athletes caught up in the investigation were lower-level athletes using the substance to lose weight, rather than cheat.

Those cases are still making their way through the judicial system, but more that 20 cases have been resolved.

DFSNZ has been accused of overprosecuting. But Paterson said DFSNZ had ''heavily lobbied'' the World Anti-Doping Agency [Wada] asking for a distinction to be drawn between elite athletes and social athletes.

Those voices have been heard and Wada is expected to make a distinction in its new code which will come into effect in 2021, Paterson said.

''There will be a new type of athlete called the recreational athlete.

''This will be the first time there has ever been any recognition of the different types of athletes out there.''

That does not mean social athletes will escape sanctions, however. Paterson's view is anyone using anabolic steroids should face repercussions.

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