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World anti-doping agency to move to Montreal

Montreal narrowly won the decision over Lausanne, Switzerland where the agency had its temporary home since its creation in 1999, following the Tour de France doping scandal that shook public confidence in anti-doping controls.
The 14 employee body, which could soon grow to 50, acts as an international watchdog whose main job is to coordinate the fight against doping through unified standards and testing procedures, research on new and stealthier performance-improving drugs, and education.
With a budget of $16 million, the agency aims to conduct some 3,500 random tests of Olympic athletes this year. Those tests, actually outsourced to a consortium formed by Canadian, Australian and Norwegian anti-doping authorities, are done between events, as a complement to those made by the different sports federations during competitions.
“The problem is that you have some countries that don’t even have anti-doping programs,” said Rob Koehler, managing director of the consortium, as well as manager for international programs at the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports, an independent agency enforcing the Canadian anti-doping policies.
“The agency has come a long way, they have shown that they have the leadership, and it certainly has an exciting future,” he said.
Choosing Montreal caused some surprise, given that Lausanne is already a world center of sport politics, hosting the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee and those of more than a dozen international sport federations.
But Canadian officials say the agency’s credibility will be enhanced by putting some distance between itself and Lausanne.
“In terms of perception, it’s clear it was an advantage to go outside (Lausanne),” said the vice-president of the Canadian Olympic Association, Walter Sieber.
“Canada is among the best in the world in the fight against doping. We never hide ourselves and always took the sanctions needed,” he said.
Besides its good credentials, the Canadian government put some weight in Montreal’s candidacy by offering the anti-doping agency up to $11.7 million in financial incentives over 10 years. In contrast, Lausanne had a mere $1.6 million to put on the table as part of its assistance package.
“There was a bit of cynicism (toward the anti-doping fight). They had to take a needed distance,” said Christiane Ayotte, director of Montreal’s Doping Control Laboratory, one of the 25 testing facilities accredited by the International Olympic Committee.
The agency should move to Montreal after the 2002 Winter Olympics games in Salt Lake City next February.