South Africa is a leading nation in the fight against doping, according to David Howman, the director general of the World Anti-doping Agency.
Hayman was speaking on Saturday at a Wits seminar on sports law and anti-doping in Johannesburg.
“South Africa is probably one of the most committed countries to this movement and Saids (the SA Institute for Drug Free Sport) is a leader in anti-doping on the African continent,” Howman said.
“There has been consistent and progressive movement on this continent and a large part of it is thanks to Saids.”
Hayman gave the opening address in place of Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula who had been “caught up until the early hours of the morning” at the ANC policy conference in Midrand, said Saids chairman Shuaib Manjra.
“The fight against doping is at a crossroads,” Howman said.
“We have been in place for 12 years and we have more challenges confronting us now than we did 12 years ago.
“There is more money in sport, more incentive to cheat and there are more criminal entities getting involved.”
Howman said Wada believed only a portion of cheats in world sport –“dopey dopers” — were eventually caught.
The others — “sophisticated dopers” — were able to outsmart the system.
“There are around 260,000 doping tests done around the world each year and one or two percent of those turn out as positive,” he said.
“However, we think doping at elite level is in the double figures — more than 10 percent. This means cheats are flourishing. We need to catch them.”
It had become too easy for sportsmen and women to cheat, due to a seemingly unlimited supply of drugs and easy access to doping substances.
“In some countries there are drugs [on the Wada banned list] that can be accessed over the counter as they are not illegal,” Howman said.
“We also have the influence of the criminal underworld.
“We are not tasked to take this on but we must recognise that it exists and work with law enforcement to put a stop to it.”
Another concern for Wada was the number of school children who were taking banned substances, including steroids.
“The availability of substances is not only an issue for sport but an issue for society,” Howman said.
“Steroids are being made available in schools and we must engage governments who have resources to tackle this problem.
“We must explain to people how unsafe this is and it must be looked at from a public health perspective.”
People who were assisting athletes to cheat also needed to be held accountable, including coaches and parents.
“Athletes are not acting alone and they must not be isolated,” Howman said.
“If we consider how many people are influencing a single athlete, they must all be held accountable.”