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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: « Pas de renoncement dans le sport »

by Lionel Venturini

The Fight Against Doping in Sport Must Not Be Abandoned

Translated Sunday 9 September 2007, by Emma Paulay

Doping. The ex-minister for Sport, Marie-Georges Buffet, is up in arms against the doctors who are defending the case for the legalisation of doping. In the name of pragmatism in the anti-doping fight, Alexandre Mauron considers that “a perfectly clean sport which excludes all doping is an unrealistic ideal, rather like the ideal of a drugless society”. The Swiss researcher recently called for a risk-reduction policy in these very columns, such as Switzerland has done with illegal drugs (see issue 16 August 2007 of l’Humanité). It’s out of the question to give up fighting, retorts the ex-minister for Sport, Marie-Georges Buffet, now national secretary of the Communist Party (PCF).

Huma: Alexandre Mauron’s point of view is shared by some anti-doping specialists who say that “sport should not be any different to any other human activity in which drugs are used to improve performance by more or less technological means”. What makes you react to this recent declaration?

Marie-Georges Buffet: It’s the sense of giving up which comes out of the interview. Nobody can say for sure that sport can become clean one day. But is it worth fighting to reduce doping practises which are becoming more and more humiliating for those concerned, or not? We are already seeing “biomen” carting around pouches of blood for transfusions. I think that those who support a complete reclassification of doping practises are encouraging sporting events to continue being the means for sponsors to be the ones rewarded for the atheletes’ efforts.

Huma: So according to you, it undermines the very meaning of sport?

Marie-Georges Buffet: Above all, sport should be about individual effort, collective pleasure, noble gestures, uncertainty…We are witnessing the opposite happening, men and women are being built up in the aim of attaining a given high-level performance. It’s just like considering that it’s normal to take so many anti-depressants, that that’s what it takes for employees to carry on working when faced with worse conditions and for the company to carry on being profitable. It’s an assault on people. Doping is hard on people, hard on their bodies.

Huma: …and hard on their families too.

Marie-Georges Buffet: Of course! I’ve spoken to cyclists’ partners. Some thanked me for putting their husbands in prison, because they couldn’t stand it any more. Some cyclists do their own transfusions in the family bathroom! And the fridge is full of all sorts of stuff, right next to the food…

Huma: But, to be pragmatic, providing a legal framework for doping does aim to make athletes healthier.

Marie-Georges Buffet: Real pragmatism means not treating doping as an isolated issue. If sportsmen are supposed to find help and advice in regional anti-doping centres then we have to give them the means to do so. Too often, we are only concerned with doping in high-level competition. If the anti-doping campaign just means dismantling networks and individual punishments within federations, we won’t get anywhere. There will always be a demand for doping from somewhere. We have to address doping itself and at the same time change the way in which sport is practised. Money should not dictate the law of sport. But clubs now have the possibility of being floated on the stock exchange. We see the appearance of private structures such as Team Lagardère where the participants are somehow no longer within the realm of federations and sporting movements.

Huma: Your recently revised 1998 anti-doping law will be 10 years old soon: does it give us reason to hope?

Marie-Georges Buffet: In 1998, when I was minister for sport, the Tour de France cyclists demonstrated against the customs checks saying “Let us do as we like…” In 2007 they got off their bikes to say they are fed up with doped cyclists. That proves that in 10 years things have changed within the sporting movement.

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