- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

BRUSSELS (AP) - The European Union will face increased calls this week to force the World Anti-Doping Agency into softening its out-of-competition drug-testing rules following a report criticizing them for alleged privacy violations.

An independent EU advisory panel said that anti-doping controllers in the 27-nation EU must “disregard” the WADA code when its rules “contradict domestic law.”

The WADA system requires athletes to give three months’ notice of their location for one hour each day _ seven days a week _ between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. The information is registered online and can be updated by e-mail or text message.

The Spanish government, however, passed legislation that allows athletes in the country to refuse nighttime doping tests. The decree will come into law in several weeks and will allow any athlete living or training in Spain to turn away anti-doping agents that appear for a sample between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m., the Spanish newspaper El Pais newspaper reported Tuesday.

WADA spokesman Frederic Donze told The Associated Press his group was not aware of the Spanish legislation.

“WADA has several meetings planned with Spanish government officials in the coming days and weeks, and this topic will obviously be part of the discussions,” he wrote in an e-mail.

The EU panel’s 19-page report listed many instances in which it sought change in keeping with Europe’s stringent privacy legislation. WADA president John Fahey said the panel offered “no constructive solutions” and “could potentially undermine the fight against doping in sport.”

European parliamentarian Emine Bozkurt told the AP: “They just wipe the floor with the report. It is a mystery to me how we can start a dialogue now.”

Europe has been increasingly critical of the rules and several officials have even called for a suspension of the system until the issues are cleared up. Prominent athletes and major federations like soccer’s governing body have also been skeptical since the program began Jan. 1.

Many athletes contend the system does not guarantee sufficient freedom from testers, not even when they’re on the beach or at a club. They say the arrangement violates their right to privacy. And they are finding an ear with European politicians.

In Belgium, 65 athletes have started court proceedings against the whereabouts system, citing the European Convention on Human Rights. WADA says it has taken enough legal advice to make sure the rules are within the provisions.

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