ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is helping the fight against the misuse of drugs in sport by developing the first International Standard for doping control.

The International protocol for doping control, which is a comprehensive approach to managing and improving the quality of anti-drug programmes in sport, will be further developed from its current status as an ISO Publicly Available Specification (PAS) to become a fully fledged ISO International Standard. The first drafts are expected to be completed by the second half of 2002.

The fight to eradicate the misuse of drugs continues to be hampered by the lack of a commonly accepted International Standard for doping control, resulting in the frequent overturning by sports tribunals or civil courts of positive drug tests. In addition to the possibility that offenders may thus avoid sanctions, "clean" (drug-free) sportsmen and sportswomen suffer from the lack of harmonization among anti-doping rules.

The move to raise the status of ISO/PAS 18873, International protocol for doping control, to that of International Standard is designed to encourage harmonization of the divergent doping control procedures practised in different countries and by different sports organizations. A common and internationally accepted ISO International Standard will provide a uniform set of guidelines to ensure a fair and equitable international doping control system that will protect the integrity of honest athletes and detect the wrong doers.

It is expected that the adoption of ISO/PAS 18873 as an International Standard will significantly increase its worldwide acceptance by governments, sports organizations and athletes as the recognized code for doping control.

The proposal to further develop ISO/PAS 18873 was made jointly by the International Anti-Doping Arrangement (IADA), the inter-governmental cooperation that developed the original document, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the independent foundation set up by the International Olympic Committee.

"The general experience of use of the ISO/PAS 18873 is that the procedures provide for a legally strong and robust process whereby the possibility of an athlete challenge on the basis of procedures used is quite minimal," said Anthony Ives, Senior Project Officer from the Australian Sports Drug Agency, one of the signatories to the IADA concept. "Its procedures have been the basis for developing strong systems that uphold human rights, respect due process and assure that the procedures are based on best practice."

Support for ISO/PAS 18873 has come from the Council of Europe which endorses it as the reference protocol in anti-doping controls, and encourages international sports organizations to use it as the basis for their anti-doping programmes.

Currently, ISO/PAS 18873 has been implemented by Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States while another seven countries are involved in implementing the standard within their national systems: Austria, Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa and Sweden. In addition, another six countries will begin implementation in the next six months.

An ISO/PAS (Publicly Available Specification) is one several alternatives to fully fledged International Standards offered by ISO for cases where swift development and publication takes priority. All Publicly Available Specifications are reviewed every three years to determine if the document should be reconfirmed as a PAS for another three-year period or whether it should be further developed to become an ISO International Standard.