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New drug testing agency aims to restore trust in sport

August 17, 2018

LAUSANNE: The new International Testing Agency will regain the “trust” of athletes and fans who lost faith in the fairness of sport after a series of doping scandals, the body’s director-general told AFP.

The idea to create the ITA was conceived at the height of the Russian doping scandal that saw evidence emerge of egregious cheating orchestrated by Moscow during the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Under intense pressure, the International Olympic Committee insisted the sporting world needed a fully independent testing agency that could back-stop federations and national anti-doping labs, which had proven vulnerable to manipulation.

The ITA started operating in Lausanne just over a month ago and it is, managing-director Benjamin Cohen said, already providing services to 30 federations and would strive to build its portfolio — including testing responsibility for the next World Cup, if FIFA agrees.

“We are coming out of a rather complicated period, since the Sochi Olympics,” Cohen told AFP at the agency’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The “ITA will be there to regain the trust of the athletes and the fans if they have lost it,” he said, adding that the body will work to “earn trust, respect and loyalty of our partners.” But the ITA’s ability to attract partners was an open question.

Some federations indicated a desire to keep control of their own testing in collaboration with the World Anti-Doping Agency, which does not conduct tests.

Cohen said partnerships with the boxing, judo and table tennis federations demonstrated the ITA is gathering momentum.

He also highlighted the decision by United World Wrestling, which governs amateur wrestling, this week to hand over its full anti-doping programme to the ITA. But big fish like FIFA, athletics governing body IAAF and cycling federation UCI — which manages a sport devastated by high-profile doping — have not yet signed on.