WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), today held a hearing examining the international anti-doping system. The hearing came after a bipartisan July 2016 letter to the International Olympic Committee and a series of reports on doping incidents.
As Chairman Murphy stated in his opening remarks, the goal of today’s hearing was to examine the current status of the international anti-doping system.
Chairman Murphy stated, “Every two years, nations are filled with excitement and pride as they cheer on their athletes at the Summer and Winter Games. It has been a long-standing tradition that should not be tarnished by those that choose to cheat. Ultimately, I hope that this hearing helps to highlight ways in which we can strengthen clean competition and restore public confidence in international sports.”
Michael Phelps delivering his prepared testimony.
Michael Phelps, the world’s most-decorated Olympian, testified, “I competed internationally for over 15 years and had the tremendous honor to represent the United States in five Olympic Games and six World Championships. …There is no greater feeling than standing up on the podium and watching the Stars and Stripes rise as our national anthem plays.”
Speaking to heightened incidents of doping, Phelps stated, “If we allow our confidence in fair play to erode, we will undermine the power of sport, and the goals and dreams of future generations.”
Nelson displayed his long-delayed gold medal during his remarks.
Adam Nelson, an Olympian shot putter, shared his story about being awarded the gold medal after retroactive doping tests revealed years later that the first place winner had taken performance-enhancing drugs. There was no podium or national anthem when Nelson received his gold medal nearly one decade after competing in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens – it was in the food court of the Atlanta Airport. “My story illustrates only part of the damage caused by doping in sport. But I’m not here today to invoke sympathy,” testified Nelson. “Sympathy is a thought, an emotion devoid of action. I’m here today to ask you all to give meaning to my medal. I’m here today to ask for action on behalf of the millions of dreamers like me, who believe in fair play and aspire for their gold medals to be won and celebrated in the moment after a clean and fair competition.”
“There will always be those who seek to gain an advantage – the personal and financial motivations are undeniable and the opportunities afforded by scientific innovation too tempting. The challenge is daunting and may never be totally solved,” stated full committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR). “But that is not an excuse for inaction. We can and must do better, even if that requires some difficult and uncomfortable reforms.”
Witnesses from the International Olympic Committee, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) all agreed that reforms are needed to protect our athletes.
Rob Koehler, Deputy Director General of WADA signaled a willingness to remove sports organizations from their governance, as a mechanism to address what many have categorized as a conflict of interest.
Dr. Richard Budgett, Medical and Scientific Director at the IOC confirmed that his organization supported greater independence for WADA – especially related to testing and investigations. He clarified, however, that governance structure remained an open question and the details of any potential reforms will be informed by an on-going review by WADA.
At the end of the hearing, Chairman Murphy asked the witnesses if they would be willing to appear before the subcommittee again once reforms are implemented. All three agencies expressed a willingness to do so.
A background memo, witness testimony, and an archived webcast of the markup can be found on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s website here.