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10 per cent of athletes could be doping says Wada chief – but he has ‘great respect’ for UCI’s anti-doping programme

The number of youngsters doping in a bid to reach elite level is the organisation’s biggest concern

World Anti-Doping Agency director general, David Howman, believes that as many as 10 per cent of elite athletes could be doping. However, he said that the numbers of cyclists doping has fallen "majorly" in recent years and added that he had ‘great respect’ for the way in which the UCI carries out its anti-doping programme.

Appearing on the BBC’s HARDtalk, Howman was asked how prevalent drug use was in elite sport.

“We have guesstimates, based on some research that has been undertaken over the last year and it’s far more than we would wish it to be. The guesstimates have been over 10 per cent. It varies from sport to sport, but that is of concern because those who are being caught by the system as it currently runs – it is far lower than that.”

Asked whether he believed the opinion of one “respected former professional” who told the Cycling Independent Reform Commission earlier this year how they thought 90 per cent of pro cyclists might be doping, Howman said he didn’t. While suggesting that the number had fallen ‘very majorly’ since the Lance Armstrong era, he said the question was to what level it had dropped.

Howman says his job is not to say whether individual athletes are doping, but to ensure the programmes are in place to catch anyone who does. Of professional cycling, he said: "I have great respect for the way in which the UCI are now running their anti-doping programme."

Earlier this year, fears were raised that doping was becoming more common among Britain's amateur cyclists due to a lack of testing. Howman said that promising youngsters in many sports may dope in a bid to reach the elite level.

"The area of most concern for us is the level of young athletes who have not broken through into the elite who are trying to get that breakthrough and are susceptible to taking drugs because that's a shortcut.

"Not only are they susceptible to taking drugs, they are being encouraged to do so by any one of a number of people that surround them - coaches, trainers, even parents - because it's way to make a lot of money."

However, it seems the biggest challenge for Wada is its relative lack of resources. Howman compared the organisation’s budget with the money being earned by top sports stars.

"When I started at Wada, Wayne Rooney was being paid $4m a year by Manchester United. He's now being paid something like $30m.

"We were getting $20m when he first started, we're now getting $30m. Sport is saying to us [your money] should be increased but they are not doing it in the same proportion. That probably is not a good way of addressing the issue."

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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