Commonwealth Games to step up fight against drug cheats
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Doping samples at next year's Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast will for the first time be stored long term for future testing as officials send a strong message that the host country will not "tolerate cheats" at the multi-sports event.
A pre-Games anti-doping taskforce would also be established to test athletes before they even arrive in Australia for the Games, which run from April 4-15, organisers said on Friday.
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), local organisers and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency (ASADA) will also share intelligence with law enforcement to investigate the possession and trafficking of banned substances.
"Athletes deserve a fair, legitimate and level playing field," CGF President Louise Martin said in a statement.
"This is why I am determined that the CGF and its Medical Commission will play a lead role in the fight against doping in sport."
Global sports competitions have been plunged into turmoil in the last two years, with Russian athletes banned from events including last year's Rio Olympics after investigations uncovered evidence of state-sponsored doping.
Commonwealth countries Kenya and Jamaica have previously had their drug testing programmes scrutinised and ordered to be brought up to world anti-doping standards.
"Given recent international events, the 2018 Commonwealth Games provide a watershed moment ...to raise the bar for anti-doping programmes and restore athletes and supporters faith in fair competition," ASADA acting CEO Judith Lind said.
"The decision to tank all samples for the first time in Commonwealth Games history shows our commitment to a high-integrity games, and to the protection of clean athletes the world over."
The Australian government pledged an additional A$1.5 million for testing to ensure the event was as drug-free as possible.
"Australians do not tolerate cheats, plain and simple," said Australia's Minister for Health and Sport Greg Hunt.
"That is why this Government committed $1.5 million in funding to support additional testing of both Australian and international athletes in the lead up to the Games.
"This partnership will go a long way to giving confidence to the thousands of athletes and fans who deserve a level playing field in 2018."
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford)