Minister for Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe, has confirmed that a new National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) is due to be up and running by the end of 2009 in a bid to stamp out the use of illegal drugs in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games and beyond. In the past, UK Sport's position has been questioned in some quarters as the body was responsible for both funding and policing elite sport in the UK. Following the reforms, all prosecutions will now be carried out by NADO's in-house legal team.
As part of a shift in focus towards targeting suppliers, manufacturers and traffickers as well as athletes, the body will seek to establish links with other law enforcement agencies such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
Political pressure to ensure drugs do not tarnish the London Games is increasing, and NADO will have increased legislative powers to access information. At this stage, the criminalisation of doping in sport does not seem to be on the agenda in the UK, but other countries in the EU have seen this as a necessary step in the battle against doping.
NADO will work closely with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and be responsible for ensuring that WADA's rules (mainly set out in the World Anti-Doping Code) are adhered to in the UK.
2009 has also seen WADA bring in stringent 'whereabouts' provisions as part of their revised code. These provisions have been criticised by some leading athletes as being too onerous. Under the whereabouts requirements, all athletes on a country's national testing register must specify three months in advance, a time and a place each day, five days a week, where they can be found to give a no notice drugs test. Any athlete who does not comply with the rule or does not submit information on time will receive a strike, and three strikes will lead to an automatic 18-month ban.
Such a measure raises the question of how far sporting bodies can go in their fight against illegal drugs in sport. A group of Belgian athletes is challenging the whereabouts rule on the basis that it breaches Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which protects an individual's right to privacy. A ruling is not expected in the Belgian case until late 2009 but it is one that anti-doping organisations and athletes in particular will be watching with interest.