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UK Anti-Doping Boss Andy Parkinson Reveals London 2012 Olympics Could Still Find Drug Cheats

13/03/2013 14:57 GMT | Updated 13/03/2013 15:04 GMT

There are plenty of clichés in sport. Easy to blurt out lines or repetitions of commonly held views which soon become the life blood of every commentator, pundit or fan. What's rare is the expression of a view which is new, different and refreshing.

When it comes to doping in sport, the clichéd view goes something like this. Doping is killing sport, cheats win and there's nothing we can do to stop it.

So as world anti-doping experts gathered in London on Wednesday to discuss the problem it would have been easy to hear the negative voice in the crowd.

In the last 12 months alone, doping has become the hottest of all sporting topics. As memories of Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France and Team GB winning multiple Olympic golds fade, so the elephant in the room has settled in.

Lance Armstrong's eventual fall from grace (which included him being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles) still leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of the anti-doping campaigners.

lance armstrong

Lance Armstrong was forced into admitting doping after fellow riders blew the whistle on him

Despite this, at the Tackling Doping In Sport Global Summit held at Twickenham rugby stadium, there is an uncharacteristic optimism about the future for clean sport.

“Sport is not dying," insists the World Anti-Doping Agency's director of education, Rob Koehler. "Have faith. People need to speak out. You’ll never have 100% clean athletes, but if we can change the percentage and make it lower then it will be better.

“If we are going to do it properly it’s not just in schools, it’s the parents too. It has to come from the community, the schools, coaches, everyone.

“For me what’s happening now is a positive thing. It shows what incentives there are to catch cheats and it shows there are organisations out there to protect the integrity of sport. The whole idea of exposing it is a positive thing, the more you expose the closer you get to cleaning up sport. There will always be the need for testing. The whole idea now is to talk about education."

That's the doom and gloom cliche dealt with, then. But how can sport move forward? While Koehler says people need to be educated, what about the athletes? What should they be doing to beat doping in their own sports?

“Everyone has a choice. There’s nobody putting a gun to their head saying they’ve got to tell the truth.

"As a sportsman myself the last thing you want to do is call out your team mates. It becomes your life, it becomes your community and so by speaking out against someone you lose your community. Your life revolves around that sport and all your friends and people you work with changes."

But in terms of finding a way to get athletes to speak out Koehler was stumped when asked by The Huffington Post.

"That’s a good question and we don’t have the answer to that. We have to be in schools and we have to be really diving into what’s going on or we will be constantly chasing what’s going on."

It's a view which is echoed by Andy Parkinson, chief executive of UK Anti-Doping.

"Sport has never been healthier, especially if you just look at the last nine months with the Olympics and what a tremendous opportunity it was for the UK," he told HuffPostUK.

"We saw more clean winners than we saw doping athletes and that’s got to be positive.

"I think the real change for the public is that there’s now a reality check. Just because agencies test athletes, it doesn’t mean they are all clean. I think that’s sad in one respect, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

ben johnson

Ben Johnson became one of athletics' most infamous drug cheats

"The paying public at the moment are the parents of future champions, they are part of the system, so if they realise there are risks of athletes making the wrong decision, they can be part of the solution rather than just be observers and spectators.

Parkinson revealed a meeting he had with an athletes' committee when they discussed how athletes could make the change and start blowing the whistle on colleagues.

"We had a fascinating discussion about when and when you wouldn’t pass on information. It was surprising because people were very, very reluctant to pass on information.

"When we end up banning an athlete there's always someone who says ‘I could have told you that’ - well, why didn’t you?

"People in an office in London cannot fix it all without other people helping. There needs to be confidence in the system for athletes when they offer information. They need to know something is going to happen when they put themselves in a whistle blowing situation and know they are safe having done that.

"All our intelligence is safe and secure. There’s a help line run by Crimestoppers which has nothing to do with us. It’s totally confidential, but we get a report when something comes through. It can be anonymous. We need to promote that more."

It's worth mentioning that when the HuffPostUK called the Stop Doping Now hotline it was answered on the first ring.

But could whistle-blowing ever replace testing as the way to stop doping?

doping

People who suspect drug users can call a doping hotline

"If you have no testing there will be more doping," admits Parkinson. "The question is, what’s the optimum level of testing?

"What we’ve seen from the Lance Armstrong thing is people almost saying testing doesn’t work. It does, but you’ve got to realise what your outcome is from each test, is it deterrent, public assurance or is it to catch someone? Each have similar value."

The International Association of Athletics results manager, Thomas Capdevielle, told the conference how new blood profiling was being used in sport to root out potential cheats. But it was not without its own issues.

According to Capdevielle the Jamaicans had complained that their "genetic make-up" could actually cause the blood profiling to give inaccurate results.

For Parkinson, the next eight years will prove crucial in the fight to keep the image of sport, especially British sport, positive. Retroactive testing of samples from the 2012 Olympic games will continue and there's a chance athletes could yet test positive.

"Just because we've have no positive tests so far, it doesn’t say every single person was clean.

"If that tarnishes people’s few of the games it shouldn’t because that’s just the reality of sport these days, but the retroactive testing is really powerful and if athletes aren’t recognising that what they do today can be found out in eight years time then they need to wake up because that’s a really strong deterrent.

"We need athletes to understand that you may think it’s undetectable today, but if we find a test for it in a year's time, if we get evidence of something that happened seven years ago, we will pursue it.

"I don’t know if people will come up positive in the future. The only people who know are the athletes."