Strong support for EU initiatives against doping in sport

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A pan-European conference has given strong support to the Council of Europe’s current anti-doping activities and backed possible complementary EU initiatives in this area.

The pan-European conference on the fight against doping in sport took place in Lisbon on 24 October 2007. The aim of the meeting, bringing together sports ministers and senior officials responsible for governmental anti-doping policies, was to prepare the World Anti-Doping Conference in November 2007 and agree upon a common position on the revised draft of the 2007 World Anti-Doping Code.

Experts discussed public policy trends and examined, among others, the system of sanctions, personal data protection, preventative approaches and the definition of a athlete. 

The conclusions state that the conference expressed “strong support for the present anti-doping functions and cooperation activities that take place in the framework of the Council of Europe and for the possible complementarity of EU initiatives in this field.” However, regarding the revision of the World Anti-Doping Code, the participants “expressed contrasting views on the fact that final decisions of criminal courts may not be binding for anti-doping disciplinary bodies”. 

Indeed the Commission’s White Paper on Sport (July 2007), which stressed the need to join forces in the fight against this problem, also recommended that “trade in illicit doping substances be treated in the same manner as trade in illicit drugs throughout the EU,” thus criminalising doping across the EU 27.  

Strengthening the EU anti-doping policy and its instruments is currently high on the EU agenda after the bloc’s sports ministers agreed, in March 2007, to set up a network of national anti-doping organisations (NADOs) within the EU.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has expressed serious concern regarding the EU’s interference in the sports world’s rules and particularly the fact that anti-doping regulations fall under the bloc’s competition laws. The judgement of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the so-called Meca-Medina case last year is considered by some experts to mark the end of the ‘sporting exception’, as the court ruled that anti-doping regulations contravened the bloc’s competition laws by removing the freedom of the two banned swimmers to compete.

The IOC and other sports governing bodies therefore hope that the reference to “the specific nature of sport” in the EU Reform Treaty will guarantee that their rules are exempt from the bloc’s legislation.

The EU sports ministers’ meeting on 25 October will also discuss the fight against doping.

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