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AFLD wants to become « an international benchmark » in anti-doping

Aged 15, the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) is making a new growth spurt. Created in 2006 in the wake of the Puerto affair (a vast blood doping network organized around the Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes), which splashed professional cycling, the independent public authority in charge of « Guarantee sporting integrity, the fairness of competitions and the health of athletes », presented, Thursday, November 25, the main lines of its strategic plan 2022-2024, which will dictate its action until the Olympic Games (Olympics) in Paris. For the occasion, the agency unveiled the lines of its new logo.

After implementing its structural reforms, one of which acts on January 1, 2022 for the transfer – and administrative separation – of the analysis laboratory from Châtenay-Malabry to the University of Paris-Saclay, AFLD now wishes to pass into high gear and become a « International reference » in anti-doping matters.

The agency carried out 9,000 tests in 2021, should perform an additional 1,000 within a year and aims for 12,000 samples in 2023, on the eve of the Olympics. Progress certainly, but still far from the 14,000 tests carried out today by UK anti-doping, its British counterpart, to which AFLD officials like to compare themselves.

On the budget side, the French regulator will see the subsidy provided by the sports ministry increase from 9.3 million in 2021 to 10.2 million euros in 2022 – excluding the laboratory’s own budget and the resources resulting from the analysis services provided. for third parties. « 1,000 additional checks per year is 250,000 euros more per year », we calculate at the AFLD.

Fight against « doping by ignorance »

Since its compliance – by the government order of April 21, 2021 – with the World Anti-Doping Code, the Agency has been granted new prerogatives. In addition to its historic mission of detecting and sanctioning doping practices, investigative and intelligence powers, as well as an increased role in education, have been added.

The AFLD was until then often considered only through its disciplinary approach, affirms to the World Jérémy Roubin, secretary general of AFLD since 1er April 2021. “The agency had an image of a gendarme. Today, it has reinvested in the field of prevention and education ”, he congratulates himself.

Thus, since November, AFLD has been organizing training sessions to raise awareness of anti-doping issues and « Promote a new culture of clean sport » with athletes and their entourage. Payable for « Ambassadors » thus trained to preach the good word on the ground, with the sports federations initially before widening the target audiences.

AFLD thus wants to fight against « Doping out of ignorance ». « We must inoculate the right reflexes », argues Jérémy Roubin, for « No longer say ‘I was not aware' ». The idea is, for example, to provide simple and reliable information, practical advice to athletes on the composition of food supplements or to help doctors find therapeutic alternatives to a prohibited drug, when they exist.

On the repressive side, AFLD refocused its control activities in 2021 on high performance. Now, two thirds of the tests carried out target national and international athletes, while they concerned two thirds of amateur athletes four years ago.

This reorientation of controls responds to the request of the Court of Auditors, which, in April, questioned, in a summary sent to Prime Minister Jean Castex, the competitiveness of the analysis laboratory and more generally the effectiveness of the French agency.

Investigation powers

Some 360 ​​French athletes are part of the AFLD target group in 2021, which makes them subject to a daily obligation to declare their whereabouts. About fifty of them have, since November 18, entered this target group, including skiers and biathletes whose participation in the Beijing Winter Olympics (from February 4 to 20) justifies their increased control. . To this target group, the French regulator plans to add in 2022 a control group, with a wider scope, a sort of« Target group antechamber ».

More controls but also more investigative powers. AFLD can now, in accordance with the recommendations of the World Anti-Doping Agency, summon people for hearing, use an assumed identity on the Internet, or carry out « Home visits » – searches – under the supervision of a judicial judge.

Five agency investigators were sworn in in October. “AFLD is one of the few national anti-doping organizations with such investigative powers. This will allow us to also pursue the entourage of athletes ”, praises Jérémy Roubin.

With these new prerogatives, the AFLD is nevertheless working on eggshells with the gendarmes of OCLAESP, the Central Office for the fight against attacks on the environment and public health, responsible for legal proceedings concerning doping, and with whom relations are not always « Fluids », according to the Court of Auditors.

“There is room for several actors in the fight against doping. To say that the AFLD has given itself a pre-square is a fantasy ”, assures Jérémy Roubin. In April, during a conference, Colonel Ludovic Ehrhart, Deputy Chief of OCLAESP, underlined the necessary strengthening of cooperation between the two bodies, invoking « France’s duty to set an example in 2024 ».

The edition of the home Olympics represents both a responsibility, but an opportunity for the AFLD, which wants to do anti-doping « A part of the Olympic heritage ». The Saclay laboratory will then have, during the two big weeks of competition, as many tests to analyze as in six months of normal activity. « With the Games, we will have a ratchet effect », wants to believe Jérémy Roubin.

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