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Fewer NZ sports people found taking drugs

Fewer NZ sports people found taking drugs - NZSDA

New Zealand athletes found taking drugs is declining, according to the New Zealand Sports Drug Agency’s latest annual figures released today. In the current year to June 30, the agency conducted 1413 tests, 60 percent of which were out of competition. Just nine athletes tested positive and three refused to be tested. Last year 13 athletes were found positive or refused tests.

Sports where offences occurred were bodybuilding six, powerlifting two and cycling, rugby league, touch and wrestling one each. Most tests were done in rugby – 340, followed by rugby league – 136, athletics – 87 and cycling – 75. A confidential survey of 200 leading New Zealand sports men and women this year found most athletes were happy with the effectiveness of the testing as a deterrent to drugs in sports.

However the agency said it is concerned at the variable responses sports gave to cases where athletes violate the rules.

Survey figures show that 82 percent of athletes (up from 75 percent last year) believe that the agency’s programme is effective and only five percent think it is not.

The proportion of athletes who believe that performance enhancing drugs are being used in their sport is dropping.

Sixteen percent of athletes believe that other New Zealand athletes in their sport use drugs, down from 21 percent last year while 52 percent believe overseas athletes are, down from 60 percent.

“Most of the figures from this survey are very encouraging and supportive of our work,’’ agency executive director Graeme Steel said today.

``However the proportion who still believe drugs are being used, particularly by overseas athletes, remains a big concern.”

He said the agency was worried not all sports are responding to reports of positive tests in the manner expected.

``Too often sports are slow in hearing cases and too many result in penalties which do not fit with the international norms which are expected. ‘’

The agency had one case where a sport failed to apply any ban to a competitor who refused to be tested and other cases where a ban was applied but was considered insufficient.

``This has been a problem around the world with the obvious high profile example of cricketer Shane Warne,’’ Steel said.

“We are in dialogue with those sports, along with SPARC, whose funding policy requires compliance with anti-doping standards.

``We believe the best solution will be the implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code which requires all sports to have common standards. Allied to this is the introduction of a common Sports Disputes Tribunal, which should ensure competent and consistent decision making according to the common standards.”

The agency faces a busy 2003-04 year in prospect as a major redraft of policy and legislation is necessary to comply with the new World Anti-Doping Code along with the introduction of blood testing procedures and a focus on the Olympic team hopefuls.

The agency’s board of Dr Dave Gerard (chair), Dr Cathy Ferguson, Melodie Robinson and Judge Tony Ellis met in Auckland today.

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