French anti-doping: a system in the doldrums

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The fight against doping is back in the news in France, not only thanks (or because of) the case Clemence Calvin, the best tricolor marathoner, involved in a case of unannounced control, but also, much less dramatically, by the challenge to the French system by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The Supreme International Authority regularly edits and amends the World Anti-Doping Code. A Bible that France would not respect to the letter, according to an audit that WADA itself has conducted in 2018, and in which it lists the anomalies that it has notified to the French Agency for the fight against Doping (AFLD).

A private-law entity created in 1999 on the ashes of the Festina affair, WADA is based in Switzerland and Canada. There, some people believe that it is necessary to put down a dogma well anchored according to which the anti-doping fight falls of the State. France will she submit or will she go to schism? This is the challenge of the battle. The WADA audit, highly confidential, would deluge the French federated fight system. Back on the episodes of a soap opera whose epilogue could be nothing less than the disengagement of the public authorities from the fight against doping …

Novelties not all consensual

Among the new developments in the World Anti-Doping Code, in force since 1st March: a transfer of the power to sanction the positive controlled athletes of the federations towards the AFLD. It is from now on an ad hoc commission of the AFLD which pronounces the sanctions. Or a questioning of the very basis of the organization of controls in France, which worked very well. Until 1st March, they depended on 14 interregional anti-doping advisers (CIRAD), agents of the State acting in France and overseas, under the authority of a Regional Directorate of Youth, Sports and Social Cohesion.

Since 2014, and until 1st last March, these 14 officials were working closer to their territory, with a view to decentralization. Their links with their hierarchy and the AFLD did not prevent them from working independently. For example, Cirad signed with their own hand the mission orders of the controllers who were to take the samples. The information they have been able to collect in the field has often given excellent results, both on top-level and amateur sport, where doping is also rampant, and moreover on a population that is not in radar. medical care and further exposes his health.

Is it the example of Russia, where the state organized doping while controlling anti-doping, which scalded WADA? The agency now requires that the staff working to combat cheating be totally independent of the state. It should be remembered that, since its creation, the AFLD is an independent agency, but 90% financed by public funds. The former CIRADs, if they want to continue their work, must therefore fall completely under the leadership, even hierarchical, of the AFLD. Some Cirad, that Release contacted, are furious. "We are deprived of our autonomy, ensures one of them. We will no longer be able to sign the controllers' mission orders or work closer to the field. Since 2014, we have achieved results. There, we will destroy a mesh of the territory built thanks to an ant work. "

To add some grumbling to the discontent of Cirad, their agent at the AFLD is a certain Damien Ressiot, director of the control department (1). Former journalist specialized in doping Team, where he has released many cases, he converted, with his knowledge, in the fight against doping. Before joining the AFLD, in 2016, he had a brief and eventful passage to the gendarmerie office responsible for doping-related matters, Oclaesp, where, according to the stories we collected, and after Dusting the tongue of wood, we do not regret it. "He left an unspeakable mess, he is temperamental, whimsical, not rigorous at all," says a source, who prefers to remain anonymous.

The predecessor of Ressiot, Jean-Pierre Verdy, in charge of the controls department from 2006 to 2015, is peremptory about it: "I blame myself for setting up Damien Ressiot. I only discovered after his big management problems. At the time, I managed to handle 400 samplers: they are not sheep, they are great professionals. " Verdy, who is no longer welcome to AFLD, adds: "CIRAD is a super-skilled people in their job. The French system is one of the best in the world. Change it, why not, but to do what? To go where ?" CIRAD was very often in contact with the customs services, the brigades of narcotics and with Oclaesp. Today, Ressiot's relations with his former colleagues are so execrable that he forbids even CIRAD to work with them, as shown by emails that Release got himself.

At AFLD, calm, everything is fine

Faced with this rise in tension, Mathieu Teoran, director general of AFLD, wants to be reassuring: "Everything is going well for the four CIRADs who have accepted the temporary detachment with us and who, in January, will be hired by the AFLD if they wish." The Director of the Agency continues: "In any case, international agreements taken upstream compel our country to comply with the World Anti-Doping Code and WADA guidelines. We do not have the choice. CIRAD has worked well on the territory, in a decentralized way, but hey, it's the eternal debate between centralization and decentralization. We will lose something in the vicinity, but we will gain coordination. " And to add that "Those who are not happy with this change are a tiny minority."

To the basic problem is added a fund. AFLD must find ways to pay CIRAD that it will use directly from 1st January. But its budget has remained stable for years, around 8 million euros. It may not be enough to hire other staff and continue the development of its business, which will inevitably increase in view of Paris 2024. But the time is not really the distribution of public money …

On the question of financing these new posts, Skander Karaa, special adviser to the Minister of Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, is clear: "The AFLD must be able to develop its own revenue by offering its services abroad, this is one of the axes for its own financing. We must be always more efficient. In any case we try! " Speaking of performance at the Ministry of Sports is probably not inappropriate, but the solution that offers Skander Karaa skeptical sources close to the AFLD: "When we offer our services to countries that do not have a national anti-doping agency, you have to know that you run a big risk of not being paid. These countries, often from the African continent, do not have the funds for that or will not allocate them to the anti-doping fight, which is not their priority … "

Where is he, this cursed audit?

For their part, CIRAD is all the more frustrated that the famous AMA audit, dated May 2018 and requesting their transfer to the AFLD, they have not seen. Only a few technocrats from the Agency and the Ministry of Sports had access to it. "We organized meetings by telephone to read the audit to CIRAD. In any case, they were already subject to the functional authority of the AFLD ", pleads Michel Lafon, head of office at the ministry's sports directorate.

For CIRAD, these telephone meetings were taken as a lack of transparency. "We are messing up our job and we are not even presented with the text that is at the root of these changes. We have been asked several times to be able to read the audit, or at least the parts that concern our functions: our requests have never been successful. There may have been transmission errors, the position between the Regional Directorate of Sports and the AFLD being perhaps a bit complicated for foreigners as the authors of the audit. Why not give us the audit and discuss it calmly? "

Mathieu Teoran regrets the situation without finding the solution to dispel this vagueness: "One has the impression that there are doubts about the remarks present in the audit. A climate of suspicion has been created, but the audit does exist. Departmental and Agency officials do not have the absolute right to be provided with this type of document. This can be done at the request of a trade union organization, a request that did not take place at the AFLD. "

Michel Lafon, he comes out the argument club: "In view of Paris 2024, we must be exemplary in the fight against doping." Implied, five years from the Olympic high mass, no question of being at fault vis-à-vis the AMA with Franco-French quarrels. Lafon, like his colleague Skander Karaa, claims to have had this document to work on the 19 December 2018 order, which transposes its recommendations into French law.. "We are not amused to put in the order of the things different from those which are in the audit and which were not obligatory, insists Karaa. This is an obligation of compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code. We can think what we want but there are international conventions behind, we must respect them. And the State Council validated everything. "

Marie-George Buffet, former Minister of Sports, behind the creation of the AMA in 1999, and Socialist Senator Jean-Jacques Lozach, rapporteur of the senate commission of inquiry on the effectiveness of the fight against doping of 2013, seized the General Inspectorate of Youth and Sports "For a monitoring and investigation mission to assess the conditions of the evolution of the CIRAD system and their status".

They also asked by mail to the Minister of Sports that they receive the famous audit. "To date we have not received a response from the Minister, Marie-George Buffet tells us. It seems to us necessary for parliamentarians to be informed. Especially since we have to ratify the ordinance of December 19th. It would be useful to read this audit to get an idea. "

Who has the heavy task of transferring the audit to Parliament? The passage of hot potato is mastered to perfection. The Ministry of Sports, in the person of Skander Karaa, answers as follows: "We are not the recipients of this audit, so we can not pass it on. Maybe Mme Buffet and Mr. Lozach should have sent their letter to AFLD. "The director of the Agency, Mathieu Teoran, is willing to do so, subject to: "We do not want to put this document on the public square. If parliamentarians ask for it, we will communicate to them according to the institutional channels. "

(1) Damien Ressiot is now head of the investigation and intelligence department of AFLD, whose creation was announced on July 31.

Luca Endrizzi

(tagsToTranslate) French Anti-Doping Agency (t) CIRAD (t) Audit (t) World Anti-Doping Agency (t) France (t) Doping (t) State (t) 1 March (t) Ministry of the City ( t) Youth and Sports (t) Damien Ressiot (t) Decentralization (t) Central Office for Combating Violence against

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