New $3 million body to help athletes 'fight temptation'
Hong Kong sport will join the war on performance-enhancing drugs when an anti-doping agency is put in place next April at an estimated cost of $3 million per year.
The agency will be run by an independent committee, which will formulate policy as well as implement doping control measures in the city.
According to a local sports official, the government has agreed in principle to fund the project and its Elite Sports Committee (ESC) has already asked the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee (SF&OC) of Hong Kong to draft a plan to decide the agency's powers and responsibilities.
That plan is expected to be completed next month.
'Although doping has never been a serious problem in local sports and hardly any case has been found before, there is a need to follow the world trend of setting up an independent agency to implement a comprehensive doping policy,' the official said. 'With more and more money involved in professional sports, it is more tempting for athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs.'
At the moment only athletes in the elite training programme at the Hong Kong Sports Institute (13 sports with about 350 athletes) and a small number of other athletes under the individual athlete support scheme are subjected to out-of-competition testing here.
Competitors in international-standard events, such as the World Women's Squash Open, the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens and the Hong Kong International Marathon, have also been tested under their respective world bodies' rules.
But the creation of this new agency means that all athletes in every sport may be tested.
'Doping control is not just about testing, it also involves a lot of educational programmes to give athletes, or even potential athletes, the correct information on doping and its consequences,' said the official.
Once details of the SF&OC's draft plan have been finalised, the project will be discussed at the next ESC meeting in September before being put forward to the Sports Commission for approval. The government will then need to earmark additional funds in its annual budget before establishing the agency in April 2007.
The official added that many sports events organisers had to carry out doping control when staging a big tournament in Hong Kong, but they had difficulty finding qualified personnel to man the programme. Having a local agency would help solve this problem as the agency could train qualified people for the job and provide correct information direct from the World Anti-Doping Agency.
'Hong Kong has plans to host more and bigger events and doping measures cannot be neglected when having these big events in the territory,' the official said.
There is no organisation solely responsible for doping control in Hong Kong at the moment, although many of the world's leading sports countries have already set up their own anti-doping organisations.
The sports science department at the Hong Kong Sports Institute currently conducts the out-of-competition doping tests for elite sports.
Other than testing, the department also provides athletes with educational programmes on doping.
According to figures provided by the institute, they test a maximum of 110 athletes a year and all the collected samples are sent to Beijing for testing. So far, no violations have been found.
However, sports which are not in the institute's elite programme do not carry out any testing.
In June 1997, hurdler Chan Sau-ying, who was based in the US, tested positive for ephedrine during a meet in Zagreb, Croatia. She was given an initial three-month ban from the International Amateur Athletic Federation which was later downgraded to a public warning for a first offence.