The Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) is lobbying government to establish an independent National Anti Doping Organisation (NADO) to enhance the integrity of the athletes doping test.
Following the latest scandal involving another local athlete, BNOC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tuelo Serufho called for the local NADO to be moved away from the BNOC and to be independent.
Serufho’s and BNOC’s concerns is that if the NADO remains under the local Olympic Committee, there will always be doubts if one of the athlete tests negative under the BNOC housed NADO tests and returns positive results in tests conducted by independent structures.
“As the BNOC, we are still advocating for an independent NADO because it will provide more secrecy in athletes testing processes,” Serufho said.
“To give you an example, in this pending case, we had previously tested the athlete shortly before she was tested by the independent structure. Our results came back negative but the results of this independent structure came positive,” the BNOC CEO explained.
“Now the question could be, ‘what happened between the time we tested and the time they tested?’” Serufho asked rhetorically. “Mind you, we are using the same equipment. The doping control officers (DCO) are trained to the same level and we do not have doubt that there could be slippages or errors on the part of our DCOs. Analysis is done at the laboratory of the same level,” he continued.
“So there are a lot of questions that we are asking ourselves, ‘is it because we are involved and maybe there is a few people within the structure that are involved and our athletes are able to get information from the system somehow?” the BNOC CEO asked.
“Now if the NADO is independent from us, then the integrity of the whole system will be enhanced. So as BNOC we are advocating for the establishment of an independent NADO,” he explained.
Serufho said considering that the BNOC is the one testing the athletes whilst also seeking to use them in competitions, the Olympic committee is therefore conflicted and may be thought to be protecting local athletes should similar situations in tests arise.
The BNOC CEO said if the NADO is moved from the BNOC and is given autonomy, the committee will not have a chance, if any, of influencing the test results. He added that while the BNOC had not interfered with the working of the interim NADO, it is of the view that as long as it is under the BNOC, the committee can influence it should it want to exert such an influence.
Meanwhile, Serufho said he is optimistic that the government of Botswana, through the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC) will eventually facilitate the establishment of an independent NADO in the country.
The establishment of the NADO has long been discussed between the Government and the BNOC but the plans were shelved following the economic meltdown in 2008. Negotiations were however resumed when the economy started recovering.
“NADO can only be established jointly by the Government and the Olympic Committee. While we have to act jointly, as the BNOC, we do not have funds to sponsor the NADO and this therefore means we will have to wholly depend on the government for its establishment,” he explained.
“The truth is the government has always been receptive of the idea. Now, the fact that MYSC has included it in their strategic plans indicate that the government is considering the idea and we believe that it will come to be in the long run,” said the BNOC CEO.
Should the Government and BNOC seek to establish an independent NADO, an Act would have to be passed in parliament first. Once passed, a fully fledged NADO with its own offices and officers would then be established.