Mr. Cepic, why do athletes start doping?
Michael Cepic: From NADA‘s point of view, there are many reasons for this. In many sports doping is of no use at all, namely when it primarily depends on coordination, concentration and the ability to react. There is a higher risk in sports where strength and endurance are decisive, i.e. abilities that can be increased with anabolic steroids or blood doping. However, after injuries or to accelerate regeneration, the risk of doping is the same in all sports. Another point is that athletes very often assume that the others dope – and this can also be a motivation. In the much criticized cycling sport, intensive blood doping was carried out at the beginning of the 2000s. However, athletes did not dope in order to gain an advantage, but to keep up in cycling at all. On the list of winners and top ten finishers of the Tour de France at that time, 80 out of 100 athletes were struck because of doping. In the meantime, cycling has done a lot on an international and national level to get the problem under control.
How is it decided which athlete will be controlled?
Since 2013, there has been a biological passport for top athletes with which blood and steroid values can be monitored on a long-term basis. If abnormalities appear here, this is already a warning signal for us. Another aspect would be if an athlete had a sudden performance explosion for no apparent reason, because we collect the background information about the training. Of course, whistle blowers also play a role; you don’t believe how many calls and mails with clues we get, but you have to be very careful with these suspicious messages, because often there is a different motivation behind it. Such a tip alone would not suffice for a check, but a whole bundle of information must be available.
This means that you and your employees spend several hours a day with sports news?
I don’t have a problem with that, because it interests me anyway, it’s part of my job, but I would also watch it privately. I have always been enthusiastic about sports, which is certainly not detrimental to this function. Of the 60 or so professional associations in Austria, at least two-thirds follow my sporting achievements with great interest and pleasure.
In an interview the former ski racer Franz Klammer, a declared doping opponent, was asked whether athletes should be obliged to report doping team mates. He had a hard time answering the question.
I myself come from the world of sport. It is a difficult situation, friends and colleagues, no matter whether it is an individual or a team sport. I think that anti-doping work is first and foremost a task for the respective NADA and the respective professional association. It is not acceptable to outsource the responsibility for clean sport to the individual athlete and suggest that he or she must tell us what is going on here. That would be too easy. Of course we need the support of the athletes, but in reality the willingness to give information increases only when the athlete himself has been caught with a positive sample. Normally, hints from active athletes are poor – if they are, they tend to come after the end of a career.