Canada's not a big offender in Olympic doping circles but the country's sports bosses are making moves to ensure things stay that way as we get closer to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The federal government and the committees governing Canada's Olympic and Paralympic efforts are giving about $1 million to the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports to bolster anti-doping measures, including a Crime Stoppers-style tip line, the Globe and Mail reports.
The centre, which runs Canada's anti-doping program, said in a news release Tuesday the initiative is in response to athletes' demands for a clean sport environment.
“Today’s news will allow us to increase our focus on intelligence gathering and investigations to stay ahead of sophisticated doping strategies, as well as expand the Whereabouts and Athlete Biological Passport Programs,” centre president Paul Melia said.
“With increased intelligence we can test the right athlete, at the right place and at the right time. This is a huge win for fair and clean sport.”
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The Report Doping Hotline (1-800-710-CCES) is modelled after ones used by other anti-doping organizations, the centre said.
“One of the most effective ways to obtain intelligence about doping is to gather information from athletes themselves," Melia said.
"We know that athletes need to feel confident and comfortable sharing sensitive information. That is why it was so important to be able to provide an anonymous hotline so that we can increase and improve the dialogue with athletes."
Jasmine Northcott, executive director of AthletesCAN, endorsed the snitch line.
“It is critical to provide a safe and anonymous outlet for athletes to come forward and share information and concerns,” she said.
Anti-doping enforcers have relied on random drug testing and, presumably, other athletes to uncover the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Whether the anonymous tip line makes it easier to pinpoint the cheaters or becomes a conduit for competitors with a grudge remains to be seen.
Statistics posted on ProCon.org based on data from the International Olympic Committee shows Canada has had only two reported cases of doping between 1968 and 2010 (most notably sprinter Ben Johnson at the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul), compared with Austria at the top of the list with 10.
There were three reported doping cases at the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010, compared with seven at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.
Summer Olympic events weightlifting and track and field produced the highest number of doping cases in the 1968-2010 period, but cross-country skiing ranked third with 12, while hockey was fifth with eight. Oddly, equestrian athletes were fourth with eight cases.
Canada has been a prominent player in combating performance-enhancing drugs. The World Anti-Doping Agency is headquartered in Montreal.