Aug 05, 2015

    Exposing drug cheats bad for business: Conte


    VICTOR Conte, the man at the centre of what was the United States' biggest doping scandal, believes the latest drug scandal to rock the sports world is all part of a cover-up to protect the bottom line.

    Track and field was jolted after a blockbuster report over the weekend alleged widespread doping in the sport.

    Britain's Sunday Times newspaper and Germany's ARD/WDR broadcaster said they had obtained secret data from global athletics' governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, showing that endurance runners suspected of doping have won a third of Olympic and World Championships medals.

    Conte was jailed for distributing steroids from his laboratory Balco on the outskirts of San Francisco, which became the epicentre of a massive doping scandal in the early 2000s.

    He said the reports show a lack of genuine interest by world sport's anti-doping chiefs to catch cheaters, and smacks of a cover-up to protect financial interests.

    "There is a financial conflict of interest," he said on Monday. "These tests are bad for business.

    "Many, many, many positive drug tests over the years, I personally know about, have been covered up. The reason is... it is bad business."

    Sponsors and television rights holders have become increasingly concerned over linking their brands and products with scandal-hit events and organisations such as football's world governing body Fifa, which is currently embroiled in a widespread corruption and money-laundering investigation.

    Many track and field athletes receive performance bonuses for winning gold medals, with agents, coaches and federations all cashing in on the winners.

    Usain Bolt, the world's fastest man, ranks No. 45 on Forbes' 2014 ranking of the top 100 earning athletes, pulling in US$23.2 million (S$32 million) a year with US$23 million of that total coming from sponsors.

    "I believe this (covering up positive tests) goes on in the US, I believe it goes on in Russia, I believe it is like East Germany - this is what it is. And what is driving all this? It's the money," said Conte.

    He said in 2012 that he believed cheating was rife in sport despite improved testing.

    "I believe there is a lack of genuine interest in catching these athletes, they don't want to know, it's bad for business," said Conte.

    "I believe probably 80 per cent of elite athletes, probably higher, are using."