President George W. Bush has asked the U.S. Senate to ratify an international treaty that would add further muscle to anti-doping efforts in sport.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Bush called on the Senate to quickly approve the International Convention Against Doping in Sport, an international treaty adopted by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2005.
“The United States supported the development of the Convention as a means to ensure equitable and effective application and promotion of anti-doping controls in international competition,” Bush wrote. “The Convention will help to advance international cooperation on and promotion of international doping control efforts, and will help to protect the integrity and spirit of sport by supporting efforts to ensure a fair and doping-free environment for athletes.”
Work on the Convention began in 2003 after the second World Conference on Doping in Sport in Copenhagen, Denmark. At the time, analysts determined that the World Anti-Doping Code required the additional legal authority of an international treaty since a majority of governments around the world – including the United States – could not be bound by agreements drafted by non-governmental organizations, such as the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Seventy-six countries have ratified the Convention, with another 115, including the United States, defined as “in process.” The speed at which the Convention was drafted and ratified is largely a reflection of the immense financial and political power of the IOC, its support of WADA and the expressed willingness of the Olympic movement to deny the awarding of international events – including world championships, Pan-American, Paralympic and Olympic Games – to countries that do not comply with the Code and Convention. That threat, particularly the exclusion of non-compliant countries from consideration as potential Olympic hosts, has added a sense of urgency to the ratification process in several countries.
“The International Olympic Movement has been supportive of the promotion and adoption of this Convention by the international community. Ratification by the United States will demonstrate the United States’ longstanding commitment to the development of international anti-doping controls and its commitment to apply and facilitate the application of appropriate anti-doping controls during international competitions held in the United States,” Bush noted. “Ratification will also ensure that the United States will continue to remain eligible to host international competitions.”
The president’s support of the treaty was welcomed by U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart.
“President Bush’s submission of the UNESCO Anti-Doping Convention to the United States Senate underscores our country’s continuing commitment to clean and drug-free sport,” Tygart said in a news release. “American athletes who seek to compete clean have always had strong support from President Bush and the United States Congress, and ratification of this important agreement will further strengthen U.S. efforts in the worldwide fight against doping in sport.”
Despite ongoing doping scandals involving Major League Baseball and other top professional sports in the U.S., the Convention does not cover any major American sports leagues. Like MLB, the National Football League, the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association do not have agreements with the IOC. The sole exceptions are NBA and NHL players who choose to compete on national teams in Olympic and other international competitions. Those players are subject to the same anti-doping rules as any other Olympic athlete.