Drugs in Sport
HELEN DALLEY, REPORTER: In this building in Adelaide, a small Australian biotechnology company produces one of the most sought-after drugs in the world ... Insulin like Growth Factor, or IGF. Sold legitimately by the Gro-Pep company as a substance for cell research in laboratories, IGF 1 has become like liquid gold to an illegitimate market, the sports market.
GRANT ELLISON, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANT: Well the research, what it's originally being used for in the research is certainly not for sports.
REPORTER: But it's ending up in sports?
REPORTER: Do you know people on it?
ELLISON: I do.
REPORTER: Are they at the elite level?
ELLISON: They certainly are, they're competing nationally and internationally.
REPORTER: Will they be competing at the Olympic games in Sydney?
ELLISON: There will be some of those people who'll be competing at the Olympic Games.
REPORTER: While little known to most of us, IGF1 is well-known in the world of elite sports, as one of the latest banned drugs of choice, along with the more popular human growth hormone, known as HGH and erythropoietin, known as EPO.
IGF1 is a protein, and works in a similar way to insulin or growth hormone. Athletes believe it builds muscle and reduces fat, thereby enhancing their performance.
CRAIG WATSON, FORMER SHOT-PUT CHAMPION: It's the next step on from GH, whether they want to say it or they don't want to say it, that's what it is. Seen the results and the results are positive.
ELLISON: I do know athletes across a variety of sports using it. There are certainly different structures of the IGFs as well and a lot of that information is coming from the US and they're getting better growth out of IGFII and other variations.
REPORTER: Costing up to a thousand dollars for a tiny vial on the black market, IGF1 is extremely expensive, and difficult to obtain. But the reason it's pure gold to athletes is that synthetic IGF1 is totally undetectable. No current test can distinguish between the illicit synthetic drug and the naturally occurring IGF in human bodies.
WATSON: Well IGF can be the difference between coming 3rd to getting 1st and that's, who wants to get 3rd?
REPORTER: But what will be disturbing to clean athletes and sports officials alike is that Sunday can reveal that authorities are investigated just how far IGF1 has spread in to our elite ranks ... examining the drug's infiltration right to the very top - in the taxpayer-funded Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. It was the company GroPep, back in Adelaide, that started sleuthing after allegations were made to it of an illicit supply into sport.
DR JOHN BALLARD - MANAGING DIRECTOR, GROPEP: What we have had is people who say that the athletes know about it and can get it .
REPORTER: Dr John Ballard is managing director of the biotech company GroPep, the only manufacturer of significant quantities of IGF1 in the world. He confirmed to Sunday that this product was in demand by individual athletes and coaches associated with the Australian Institute of Sport. Although there's no suggestion of endemic, institutionalised use of this drug at the AIS, GroPep was alerted to allegations of an illicit supply by insiders at the Institute.
DR BALLARD: Yes there were contacts from the AIS that they are concerned that there is vials of IGF1 available to athletes at the AIS and at other places.
REPORTER: Dr Ballard told Sunday that one of the AIS insiders who contacted GroPep, demanded the company do something.
BALLARD: We've been contacted from a person who is at the AIS in one way or another, and they've asked us to stop supplying, or find out if any material is supplied there. That person believed that our material was getting to the AIS.
REPORTER: So they were troubled and angry were they, that your product was at the AIS being used by some athletes?
BALLARD: I don't think they were angry with us, but they wanted to find out what was going on. I think the person who contacted us was a coach, and this coach was concerned that his athletes, or her athletes, were talking about IGF and they wanted to know what the situation was. We told them that the material wasn't being supplied and that we didn't feel it could've been supplied.
REPORTER: Did you investigate that at all?
DR BALLARD: Yes we did, we've co-operated with both the TGA and the Federal Police to try to find out what's happening.
STEVE HOWELLS, THERAPEUTIC GOODS ADMINISTRATION: We received the information in relation to a number of issues concerning this particular IGF product. To the effect that this product was being unlawfully supplied. And we referred that information to the agency within whose jurisdiction it fell.
REPORTER: And who's that?
HOWELLS: That was the Australian Federal Police, and it's my understanding that the Australian Federal Police are currently investigating that matter.
REPORTER: Steve Howells heads the Surveillance Unit at the Federal Government's Therapeutic Goods Administration, the TGA, in Canberra.
HOWELLS: Our intelligence indicated that that unlawful supply of the IGF was going to the elite sports market.
REPORTER: In the ACT?
HOWELLS: In the ACT.
REPORTER: Was there an allegation initially that IGF1 was going into the Institute of Sport in Canberra?
HOWELLS: In relation to the nature of the information we received and passed to the AFP, I'm not prepared to discuss it any further than I already have. It'd be inappropriate for me to do so, and contrary to the public interest. This is a matter that's currently being investigated by the AFP.
JOHN BOULTBEE: I've heard no information from the TGA or the Federal Police about IGF in the Institute. Were any credible information provided to me I would immediately investigate any circumstances.
REPORTER: AIS director John Boultbee says he's convinced there's no evidence of IGF use at the Institute. The Federal Police told Sunday their investigation established no definite links.
BOULTBEE: The majority of athletes want to compete fairly, and those that have other thoughts will be caught.
REPORTER: John I'm sorry, it's not logical is it to say that you'll be able to catch someone who's taking a drug for which there is no test at the moment?
BOULTBEE: There is research is being done into human growth hormone.
REPORTER: Is there anything concrete being done to try and see whether some of your athletes might be taking IGF1, human growth hormone even EPO?
BOULTBEE: We have extensive education system for our athletes, and also the basic point is, athletes in Australia are very interested in competing fairly, and don't think about these drugs.
REPORTER: The TGA was initially alerted by two sources to the startling possibility that individual athletes or coaches associated with the Institute of Sport were using, or thought they were using IGF1. The surveillance unit began to gather intelligence in 1997. A shocking illustration of how far athletes will go in the race for gold medals, is the fact that by taking IGF1 these athletes are prepared to be human guinea pigs, since it's a drug not even approved for human consumption.
DR BALLARD: It would become dangerous if they took very large amounts of it.
DR BALLARD: Because in that case, the effects you have would be to lower the blood sugar, just like if you took a lot of insulin. But you would need a lot of it.
REPORTER: And could you kill yourself?
DR BALLARD: Yes.
HOWELLS: Its dangerous for anyone to self-administer any unapproved, unevaluated drug. Those drugs haven't been evaluated for quality or safety, and as such pose a significant public health risk.
REPORTER: For GroPep there were other disturbing signs that genuine IGF1 was falling into the wrong hands. Sunday's investigations reveal that the Australian Federal Police has prepared a brief, currently before the Director of Public Prosecutions in the ACT. This case is in relation to an alleged fraud in obtaining GroPep IGF1, by a person who works for one of their existing customers.
DR BALLARD: Again we were told that there was a person at a government organisation who had purchased some material from us, we checked that and found that that was correct, a person had bought a small amount, they were a legitimate organisation, and they bought it.
REPORTER: The legitimate GroPep customer was the respected scientific research organisation, the CSIRO. There is no suggestion by Sunday that the organisation perpetrated the alleged fraud, rather that one insider did. GroPep discovered the alleged fraud when a second batch of IGF1 was ordered.
DR BALLARD: That same person came back to try to order some more in a larger amount, and as our normal practice is when someone moves up the amount, we immediately have alarm bells and are concerned. The address given, although it was an appropriate organisation, was in a branch of that organisation that we were a little bit concerned about.
REPORTER: GroPep immediately alerted the CSIRO. The Federal Police became involved, and Sunday understands that the result of that police investigation is now before the DPP. Because IGF has become a desired performance enhancing drug, particularly in the run-up to the Sydney Games, GroPep insists its security measures are tight, and they worked well in this case. But unbeknown to GroPep some genuine IGF1 from the first order could have been diverted into the illicit sports market before the second order became suspect.
REPORTER: So in a sense you couldn't possibly know when you first sold it to them, that they could've been using it for fraudulent means?
DR BALLARD: No, because the same organisation had bought it for legitimate reasons and we, I think quite reasonably, assumed this was more purchase for the same use.
REPORTER: How many calls do you get a week from people, who shouldn't have access to IGF1, but want it?
DR BALLARD: Its been as much as one call a day or one e-mail approach a day.
REPORTER: GroPep executives confirmed to Sunday the company had intelligence from an elite sports consultant, suggesting a link between the CSIRO's genuine supply of IGF, and elite athletes in Canberra. As horrifying as these allegations will be to CLEAN athletes, sports authorities and Olympics organisers, the rise of IGF1 as a sports drug of choice is undeniable.
REPORTER: What sort of figures have you heard of elite athletes who want to take your product?
DR BALLARD: I've heard numbers as high as 1,000 in Australia.
REPORTER: How much will they paying for these vials?
DR BALLARD: Oh I don't know you'd have to ask the athletes that, but I've heard that they may be paying up to $1,000 for a vial.
REPORTER: So you have heard a lot of these stories that it is out there in the elite sports market, particularly in the run-up to the Sydney Olympics?
DR BALLARD: Yes we've heard from all sorts, people phone us, we've heard from the Federal Police, we hear from many sources.
REPORTER: This young man has first-hand knowledge of IGF1 use in elite sport. He makes some amazing revelations for an athlete who never tested positive to drugs, throughout his career.
FORMER NATIONAL SPRINT CHAMPION: Just the fact that it was undetectable was like a godsend to everybody, it was a real buzz around the community.
REPORTER: Did you ever worry about taking, particularly say IGF1?
FORMER NATIONAL CHAMPION: No, not at all, I was just too worried about improving my performances.
REPORTER: This former Australian national sprint champion, who represented his country at Commonwealth Games, world titles and was part of the team that competed in Atlanta, reveals his own use of IGF1, and states that some team-mates also used it, as well as growth hormone and some fast-acting steroids, up to and during the 1996 Games.
FORMER NATIONAL CHAMPION: Leading into the Olympics in '96, almost everyone I knew was involved at some stage with IGF1.
REPORTER: Can you give me some sort of percentage figure of how many people in the Australian team, or in the track and field team?
FORMER NATIONAL CHAMPION: I think you'd be looking at around 70-80% of people, maybe more, certainly within the, as I said before, power/strength disciplines.
REPORTER: Were taking IGF1 to get ready for the Atlanta Olympics?
FORMER NATIONAL CHAMPION: Yeah.
REPORTER: So sprinters, relay runners, hurdlers?
FORMER NATIONAL CHAMPION: Throwers, jumpers, weight lifters whatever.
REPORTER: As with other supplies, the product this runner claims he and some team-mates used, was labelled Gro-Pep. And it was very expensive.
FORMER NATIONAL CHAMPION: The first lot was about $80,000 worth and the second lot that I know about, I was involved in was a bit less, maybe around $50,000. But there was lots more than that getting around, there was I don't know whether other people were getting it from GroPep or from other sources, but it was just all over the place.
REPORTER: This costly amount was divided, according to this runner, between about 30 and 40 sports people.
REPORTER: So how did they get it out of GroPep, because GroPep say they don't sell to anyone, particularly not in elite sports?
FORMER NATIONAL CHAMPION: Yeah they say that.
REPORTER: You say through the racing industry?
FORMER NATIONAL CHAMPION: Yeah through the horse racing industry basically.
REPORTER: Horse Racing?
FORMER NATIONAL CHAMPION: Yeah horse racing. Basically the information I got was that they had to show they were using it for a study into horses.
REPORTER: And was there a veterinary trial?
FORMER NATIONAL CHAMPION: No we weren't going to waste it on horses. The horses in the trial actually never existed.
REPORTER: This former Australian champion shot-putter, Craig Watson was busted for failing a sports drug test in 1992. But in more recent years as a trainer, he's witnessed the IGF phenomenon amongst elite athletes. He too claims some used product bought from GroPep. He also claims the product was obtained through horse trials.
WATSON: I know the person that was getting it. He had a licence to get it and he was buying it in lots of about $25,000 or so, some of it was going into the horse industry and there was a market to sell it to athletes.
REPORTER: Its not either designed or approved for human use, what about veterinary use?
DR BALLARD: It has been used in trials by veterinarians, and that's appropriate, allowed to be done in trials.
REPORTER: Could some of the legitimate, your stuff, be diverted from the veterinary market?
DR BALLARD: It could. But again Its not veterinary supplies, its veterinary trials.
REPORTER: Could some slip through your checks into the wrong hands?
DR BALLARD: Always it can. We would assume even though we check pretty carefully on every new and existing customers, tiny amounts could get through, yes.
REPORTER: While GroPep goes to extensive lengths to ensure product security and check new customers the company concedes that unbeknown to them, some product could've been diverted from legitimate buyers. However the company says the amounts would never be great enough to supply many athletes or improve their performance.
FORMER NATIONAL CHAMPION: The quantities they come in are big enough to get an effect. It comes in a vial and a tiny amount of it looks about as big as a breadcrumb, and you dilute that, and that little breadcrumb size amount would last you 10 days at least.
REPORTER: And how much benefit out of 10 days worth?
FORMER NATIONAL CHAMPION: Generally you'd have to go on longer than 10 days probably 6 to 8 weeks.
REPORTER: Were any of you at this top level, the beneficiaries of taxpayer funds when you were taking banned substances?
FORMER NATIONAL CHAMPION: Everyone was.
REPORTER: Doesn't ever play on anyone's mind?
FORMER NATIONAL CHAMPION: Not for one second.
ELLISON: There are certainly some athletes at the AIS that are using banned substances.
REPORTER: Such as? What sort of substances?
ELLISON: HGH, Insulin's, IGF1, the short-acting testosterones. They're obviously not being given that by hierarchy in the AIS.
REPORTER: So its not institutionalised drug-taking at the AIS?
ELLISON: No, no. Certainly some athletes have friends outside the AIS that are looking after them on that area alone, and coaches say I don't want to know, don't get caught.
REPORTER: Champion powerlifter Grant Ellison, is a personal trainer to a number of elite athletes who%9ll be competing at this year's Olympic Games. He's one person prepared to speak openly about his inside knowledge not just of IGF1, but of the full range of sports drugs available, and used by elite athletes.
ELLISON: In Australia, probably 70 to 80% of all elite athletes will be using something.
ELLISON: At least. So this is not just steroids, which everyone considers to be THE illegal drugs. This is either Growth Hormone, IGF1, insulin, EPO. So there's a variety of products they can use.
REPORTER: And what makes you say that?
ELLISON: Through being in sports myself over the past 20 years, and certainly national and world-ranked over last 10 or 15, I come across national-ranked athletes in all sports, whether as an adviser for various areas of their training, and its personal experience.
REPORTER: Can I ask you why you're speaking so frankly about this when not many people do?
ELLISON: From a personal view I just think we're a pack of hypocrites, there's a lot of knowledge out there that we need to know. Certainly it'd be better to manage these athletes better for what they are using. At the moment there are some dangerous situations happening on a week to week basis.
REPORTER: As shocking as Ellison's statements are, there are an increasing number of those at a senior level in sport, from respected drug testers right up to the very top of the Olympic movement, who have acknowledged to Sunday the extent of doping.
DR DON CATLIN - UCLA DRUG TESTING LABORATORY, LOS ANGELES: I think it's the most serious problem, the drug problem, that's facing international sport.
CRAIG MCLATCHEY, AOC: Is it the biggest problem in sport today? Yes, I think it is the biggest problem in sport today, because it goes to the fabric of sport.
JACQUES ROGGE, DEPUTY PRESIDENT, IOC MEDICAL COMMISSION: There are indications that it's quite widespread in certain sports, and that's a frightening perspective.
REPORTER: Such forthright admissions from the man overseeing Sydney Games preparations, Jacques Rogge, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee. The IOC is not normally as candid about drug use at the Olympic Games.
REPORTER: How clean do you think the Sydney games will be?
ROGGE: Unfortunately not totally drug-free and not totally clean. But we're working hard to put the fingers of the cheats as slow as possible. We cannot prove the abuse of EPO or Growth Hormone. EPO is giving unfortunately a booster to performances in endurance sports, long-distance sports in general, and Growth Hormone is basically giving a booster for the sports where speed and strength is involved. So, with the exception of the technical sports, most sports are under threat of doping.
REPORTER: While everyone wants a successful Games, and organisers want no drug scandals, they acknowledge tough action is needed. One man who's been intimately involved in this issue, conducting drug testing at the Los Angeles and Atlanta Games, is Dr Don Catlin. He runs an independent testing lab at the University of California. Dr Catlin believes the public shame of 100metre sprinter Ben Johnson being stripped of his gold medal after failing a drug test, forced authorities to attempt to take a harder line.
DR CATLIN: Well in 1988 there was a big boost and that's because of the Ben Johnson affair in the Seoul Olympics, and that got things moving. But I think what happened was sponsors, sport, and the public sort of thought they had the problem under control, and they don't. And they didn't. And what happened was in the last few years its become patently obvious that the problem is not under control.
REPORTER: Dr Catlin believes that drug abuse is in fact worse now, than it was in Seoul in 1988.
DR CATLIN: Much, much worse. Now we have EPO, we didn't have EPO at the time, we didn't have Growth Hormone at the time.
REPORTER: Just how much worse is contained in a secret report done for Sydney Games organisers, on the risk assessment of Performance Enhancing Drug use at the Games. Sunday understands the report states there will be a major problem of drug use. It goes on to say this issue should demand high priority from both police and customs. However the report is so sensitive, no-one in authority is willing to talk about it.
MCLATCHEY: It's a report that's been commissioned by the NSW Police and I don't have the authority or the right to discuss it with you.
REPORTER: Did some of the conclusions and the intelligence in it alarm you?
MCLATCHEY: If I answer some of those questions then we're talking about it and I said I won't talk about it.
REPORTER: For those in the community still shocked by allegations of widespread drug use in elite sport, the examples keep piling up. The 1998 Tour de France cycling scandal exposed huge quantities of banned substances EPO, Growth Hormone and steroids being used. Teams were banned and teams pulled out. Arrests were made.
Atlanta triple Gold medallist swimmer Michelle Smith, from Ireland, later banned after tampering with a drugs test. Atlanta Gold medal shot putter American Randy Barnes, also banned 2 years ago for failing a drug test for steroids. One Chinese swimmer caught entering Australia with human Growth Hormone, and 4 more Chinese subsequently banned for failing drug tests at the 1998 World Swimming Championships in Perth. More recently, a number of world track stars, including Linford Christie and Merlene Ottey, tested positive to steroids, and await adjudication, by their international body the IAAF. This brief list points the finger at elite athletes overseas, but, despite Australia's strong anti-drugs stance, it would be naïve to believe all our own athletes are so different.
REPORTER: You say that 70 to 80% taking it, what about the 20% to 30% who are clean, is there any chance for them to win?
ELLISON: There will always be a freak, who will come out of nowhere, and who can possibly do it clean. In general, the answer is no, they won't do it. They'll still be competitive and they may place 3rd, 4th,5th,6th and there's certainly no shame in coming 6th or 7th at the Olympics, but if you want the gold medal, no, in general you need to be taking something.
REPORTER: So are you telling us you honestly believe that to be at the top in the world, across a number of sports, its impossible to do it without some sort of drugs?
ELLISON: That's correct unfortunately.
REPORTER: And Grant Ellison should know. As an analytical chemist and a former user of sports drugs who says he's now clean, he's an expert in this field.
ELLISON: I advise athletes purely on the sense that they are going to want to take something regardless. If they ring me and say this is what I want to do, leading up to the Olympics, can I pass the test? My advice would well you can or can't, you need to cut this out or manage it a bit better. So the advice is basically to help these athletes get the best out of what they%9re doing and doing it safe, and passing the drug test at the same time.
REPORTER: How many elite athletes are you advising at the moment?
ELLISON: At the moment there would be 20 that'll compete at the Olympics, and there'll be a couple of surprise packages amongst them.
REPORTER: So 20 Australian elite athletes who'll compete at the Games in Sydney are coming to you to get your advice on what to take and how to pass the test?
ELLISON: Well, how they should manage what they were going to take anyway correctly. Are they doing anything out of the ordinary? They're certainly doing less than what most people in the world are doing.
REPORTER: What sports are these people in can you give me an idea?
ELLISON: Cycling, weightlifting, track and field and rowing.
REPORTER: Amongst the group of athletes you advise, are there some well-known names?
ELLISON: 3 or 4 incredibly well-known names.
REPORTER: Do you feel for people at home who would say, you're helping them cheat, is that how you look at it?
ELLISON: No, I don't purely because the rest of the world are taking a variety of things.
REPORTER: Ellison says random, out of competition testing in Australia has made it harder for Australian athletes to take drugs and avoid the tests. But the worry is that many countries are not so strict with random testing throughout the year.
REPORTER: Are you saying that you're trying to level the playing field for these athletes, you're not necessarily getting them an advantage?
ELLISON: They're certainly not getting an advantage, its doubtful if its even getting them to be level, I think because of what is available to them under our system, we%9re probably still doing a little bit less.
REPORTER: So you're saying a lot of Australian athletes take drugs, but probably less than the rest of the world does?
ELLISON: That's correct.
SUE HOWLAND: I started taking them before I was at the AIS, and then continued on while I was there.
REPORTER: What sort of drugs were you taking?
HOWLAND: Taking anabolic steroids at that time ....
REPORTER: Former Javelin thrower Sue Howland was a Gold and Silver Commonwealth Games medallist for Australia in the 1980s. By 1987 she was 4th in the world. She says she didn't regard taking drugs as cheating.
HOWLAND: Its to be on a level playing field with all my opposition, that's the name of the game. It wasn%9t "Oh if I take something I'm cheating, I'm getting an edge on the others". I wasn't getting an edge whatsoever, it was basically just a level playing field.
REPORTER: These pictures show just what Howland was up against at the time. This British woman was the world champ, and she was Sue's main competition in the javelin in the mid to late 80s.
REPORTER: Are you saying everybody was taking it?
HOWLAND: Back then, at a particular standard yes. That was the early 80's when very first started I started and then it got to mid to late 80's, when it just exploded because you had the Eastern Bloc, and that was just a fact of life, simple as that.
REPORTER: Sue Howland eventually got caught after failing a drug test, in '87. To date she is about the only athlete who never denied taking drugs. She was banned, and never returned to competition. However she continued to train some athletes, giving her an insider's perspective today.
HOWLAND: I would say that nothing has changed. I would say from the 80's the substances have changed, but the athletes' within themselves, their mindset has not changed.
REPORTER: So drug taking is still rife?
HOWLAND: If course it is, of course it is.
REPORTER: What sort of a cocktail would a typical elite track person be taking?
ELLISON: Well depending on the season, say going into a national competition.
REPORTER: Well say leading up to September in Sydney.
ELLISON: Anywhere between 6 and 12 weeks they'd start. If they were using Growth Hormone they'd probably use 4iu's a day, maybe every 2nd day. They may or may not add insulin to that they can add EPO to that which they can take anywhere between 1 and 4 times a week. Testosterones they may use shorter acting ones every 3rd or 4th day.
REPORTER: Both Grant Ellison and Sue Howland gave evidence a decade ago to the ground-breaking Drugs in Sport Senate inquiry headed up by then Senator John Black. It lifted the lid on endemic drug use in sport.
JOHN BLACK: Well at that time we received evidence that up to 60% of elite athletes were using banned drugs, which at that time were not being effectively tested.
REPORTER: Black's report lambasted several sports bodies, the former administration of the AIS and individual athletes for condoning drug use. It resulted in huge change including the formation of the Sports Drug testing agency, ASDA and the introduction of random testing, as well as a clean-up of drugs at the Institute of Sport. But he remains deeply pessimistic about the extent of the drug problem now.
BLACK: Its like an iceberg, most of it's under the water. But I've got no doubt that the problem is enormous. You can tell simply by the volumes of synthetic hormones which are being manufactured, and compare that to the tiny legitimate therapeutic use of these substances to see that a large amount of it's being used to enhance performance in sport. The problem is still there, we've just been marking time for a decade basically.
REPORTER: John Black believes the time is right now for another official expose.
BLACK: I think the mind-set of Australian sports management was improved for a significant period of time. I mean it's a bit like you know, putting a galvanised iron down the backyard. I mean all the cockroaches come back after a while and every now and again you've got to lift it up and expose it to a bit of scrutiny. Well that hasn't happened for a decade or so. But the problem still basically is much better here than in other countries. And I think yeah we can point the finger.
REPORTER: But its still there, the cockroaches are still there?
BLACK: Oh yeah just waiting to come out.
REPORTER: In Part Two, Sunday looks at how the race to beat the cheats is now up and running in this crucial lead-up to the Games in September. But it would seem authorities will be hard-pressed to make inroads against dopers.
BLACK: If you can't guarantee to an athlete about to start the final of a world title, if you can't persuade them that their competitors are clean, the temptation for them to take drugs is just basically insurmountable.
REPORTER, HELEN DALLEY: At this summit of national governments and sports organisations, held in Sydney last November, a significant change was occurring. Delegates were fighting over control of the newly-formed World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA as its known, a body set up to try and achieve uniformity in relation to the regulations on drugs in sport.
JACKIE KELLY, MINISTER FOR SPORT: Just the frustration in getting any consistency in penalties, and getting any consistency in testing methods, standards to be adopted in labs, things were just left too vague.
REPORTER: As the Summit progressed it became a case of national governments versus the International Olympic Committee.
KELLY: To date we've had the IOC and international sporting bodies who are really accountable to no-one, wandering around trying to seek some sort of resolution, and it has to be unanimous. But we saw governments get serious and say this is what we want, , this is what we're prepared to fund, this is how we want it operated, and these are the basic principles under which a world anti-doping agency should take shape.
REPORTER: Governments wanted greater control of WADA because they simply didn't trust the International and the national Olympic Committees to properly handle doping issues.
NGCONDE BALFOUR, SOUTH AFRICAN MINISTER OF SPORT: I have seen IOC members and it may not be all of them, IOC members thinking that they are a law unto themselves. Not in South Africa, it won't happen.
GENERAL BARRY McCAFFREY , DIRECTOR US NATIONAL DRUG POLICY: Basically the principles of accountability, transparency. That was lacking in this case. We need an agency that not only has independence, but the appearance of independence.
REPORTER: 4-star General Barry McCaffrey sits in cabinet of the most powerful nation on earth, as President Clinton's director of national drug policy. The General guided a few lethal missiles right to the heart of the IOC.
McCAFFREY: This can't be a secretive, anointing of the few who serve for lifelong office, under corporate Swiss law, where there's no knowledge of how hundreds of millions of dollars of US television money is being spent. They say, well this is a family, well I think we need a new dialogue. We don't want to watch sports competitions that are chemically-engineered gladiators. We want to see the competition of beauty of Games.
REPORTER: General McCaffrey so upset some in the "family", as he called them, that one, namely AOC boss John Coates, tried to have McCaffrey barred from entry into Sydney Olympic venues, an embarrassing gaffe that backfired when the Federal Govt had to step in. Gen. McCaffrey wasn't deterred. He openly criticised the IOC's handling of drug tests in past Olympics.
McCAFFREY: The low point of doping was probably Atlanta where we had an unknown number of allegedly contaminated samples disappear in some fashion from a safe in a hotel room and we never had a response for unspecified technical reasons.
ROGGE: I totally disagree with that , because some ministers have been grandstanding and posturing themselves and making big declarations without knowing the facts.
REPORTER: So do you reject all those criticisms that particularly the LA games and even at the Atlanta Games...
ROGGE: Absolutely, absolutely.
REPORTER: There were problems with positive tests being publicised?
ROGGE: There were no positive tests at those games . This has been widely, wrongly reported.
REPORTER: Whatever the truth the pressure on the IOC to change its ways, including from the Australian Government, became too great to ignore.
REPORTER: Will the way the IOC handles testing and results be different at the Sydney games than it has been in the past?
ROGGE: Yes, I mean albeit we do not accept criticism about the honesty and the transparency we%9re ready to listen to anyone.
REPORTER: So you're going to change it even though you don't think it needs changing?
ROGGE: Yes that's not a problem.
REPORTER: Will you be giving results simultaneously to either to Sydney or WADA?
ROGGE: Yes that is the case. We have received a request, not by Sydney but the Aust Govt to review the results management system and we did that with pleasure.
REPORTER: The squabbling over test results is merely a distraction to the fact that the serious performance drugs of choice, HGH EPO and IGF are still undetectable to testing. Of these it seems that only a test being prepared for EPO may make it across the line in time for the Sydney games.
DR GRAHAM TROUT, AUSTRALIAN SPORTS DRUG TESTING LABORATORY: At the moment we are not ready. We have a test that can detect EPO doping in a significant number of samples that we've tested so far. But to apply this test to an Olympics we need to have it validated over thousands and thousands of samples before we can have a legally defensible test.
REPORTER: Dr Graham Trout, of the Australian Sports Drug Testing Lab in Sydney has his own race to run for the Olympics. Working to deliver an EPO blood test by September.
REPORTER: If you were a betting man realistically what are the chances of it being ready to use as a proper doping test at the Sydney games in sept?
TROUT: Better than 50/50.
REPORTER: They're not great chances are they?
TROUT: They're pretty good considering the amount of work that has to be done.
REPORTER: If the IOC had funded you earlier would we be further along the track for a proper EPO test at the games?
TROUT: We would be yes. It would have helped had the funding been available earlier.
REPORTER: Before an EPO test is used in these Games the IOC must be convinced its scientifically valid, but more importantly, legally watertight.
DICK POUND, VICE PRESIDENT IOC: Our problem first and for most is we don't want to spoil, ruin the career of some athlete on the basis of a false positive test. That would be terrible. There are legal implications especially where professional athletes are involved and they get suspended, a $10 million a year player getting suspended for two years incorrectly, might very well come to you and say excuse me you did this improperly, and I'm out $20 mill, please forward your cheque by return post.
REPORTER: While EPO boosts oxygen-rich red blood cells, with no EPO test in place, Cycling Australia uses what they call health checks of the Hematocrit, or red blood cell, levels. A level over 50 could indicate synthetic EPO use. They intend conducting 2000 of these tests at the Sydney Games as athletes enter the village.
RAY GODKIN, CYCLING AUSTRALIA: What we are calling this of course, is not that they are doped, we don't say that, we say their health state is such that they shouldn't be riding push bikes, so if anyone has a level of 50 or above they are immediately taken out of the sport and they can't be retested for another 14 days.
REPORTER: Ray Godkin head of Cycling Australia concedes this so-called health check is just a stop-gap measure that can, in fact, encourage cheating.
GODKIN: Well it can do because what we are saying now for instance if I'm a natural level of 39 or 42 I can now go up to 50.
REPORTER: So you can legally take EPO to the level of 50?
GODKIN: If everyone does that of course it gives them a great lift in their performance.
REPORTER: Only last Thursday a bill finally passed Federal Parliament to amend Customs legislation, imposing much tougher penalties for importing sports drugs. This, two years after the AOC lobbied government to tighten up, following a report by the AOC's anti-doping manager which stated that change to Customs laws was essential to stop an explosion in these drugs . Two years of wasted opportunity before the Games, to stop supply by penalising importers. Add this to the time its taken to develop a test for EPO alone, and the squabbling over WADA, its clear that for even a great amount of effort, there has been little real progress in the battle against drugs in sport.
KELLY: As soon as we find a test for EPO or HGH there'll be something else, but you can't just put up your hands and say oh we'll never catch them. What I'm saying to cheats is our response rate to cheating mechanisms, to detection are going to be quicker and quicker all the time.
REPORTER: But the pressure from all quarters on elite athletes, is to win that elusive medal, often at all costs. The dilemma for them is how far to go to achieve that ambition. It's only the most naïve among us who believe they'll all do it clean.
REPORTER: What do you say to people listening to this who'll be shocked by what you're saying?
FORMER NATIONAL CHAMPION: This is just the reality of it. Maybe it would be a better world if there was no drug use. But this is just the reality of the sport I was involved in anyway.
CATLIN: The reality is this is a very tough problem, this does not get better overnight. But it also doesn't get better unless the major sports authorities, including people who have budgets to spend really get behind it. Its just a huge problem, it is not simple, it is not going to go away.
Click here for a printer-friendly version.