x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Tighten drugs tests, say Dubai Fitness winners

Last year's champions want independent testers and random screening to stamp out athletes who cheat.

DUBAI // Last year's winners of the Dubai Fitness Championship are calling for all competitors to undergo drug testing by an international body, setting a precedent for future sporting events in the country.

Organisers have said the top three will be tested and there will also be random testing.

But Eva Clarke, last year's winner in the women's division, said that was not enough.

"It really needs to be done by an international, independent organisation," she said. "It should be completely disconnected from the organisers and the athletes.

"That way, it really puts everyone on an even playing field as everyone wants a fair competition. I'd put myself up as the first person to be tested."

This year, the competition's second, is open to international competitors with a Dh200,000 prize for first place and Dh10,000 for the winners of each final category.

Clarke said it would set a great example for every competitor to be tested.

"If they can afford to test all the athletes and they want to be role models, this is a great place to have them all tested together. We don't want people speaking ill of something that's meant to be a shining light to the UAE."

As it is such a young event, Dubai Fitness Championship could be a forerunner, she said.

"This event can set a precedent for all other sports events in the UAE."

The country is no different to any other when it comes to the presence of performance-enhancing drug use, Clarke said.

"It happens here as much as anywhere else in the world, and people are brazen about it even here," she said. "Let's use this event to spread the message to the community that this isn't acceptable. We are role models for the young generation so they have to see that we are good role models."

Grant Goes, the winner of the men's division, agreed.

"In other international competitions, drug testing bodies are separate to organisers. As this competition is so young, it would be good to see objective experts being flown in from abroad who can bring the experience and expertise we need to make this competition really stand out on the international stage as we hope it does.

"It's such a new thing for the UAE to run something like this and on this scale," he said.

Seventy-two finalists will take part in the competition's three-day finale on September 12. Qualifying finishes at midnight on Sunday.

"Opening it up to international athletes will mean standards need to be raised across the board," Goes said. "It's upping the stakes a lot in such an early stage of a competition so it really needs to be well-regulated to ensure it is seen as a genuinely fair playing field for athletes."

This would require testing before during and after competition.

Goes added that there is always talk of athletes using banned substances, but competitors who become aware should take action.

"If people know there are people doing it, they need to speak out."

Derrick Branford, a personal trainer in Dubai who is working with Marwan Al Marri, an Emirati athlete, said drug testing was the "morally correct thing to do".

"For this competition, it's a moral stance. We know we're never going to get everyone tested to the level that keeps it clean, but morally it's our responsibility, especially in sports like this that are open to the general public.

"What this competition is trying to achieve is spreading fitness to the UAE, so even though random testing won't catch everyone, it is their obligation to do it. It's their obligation to keep a healthy environment and keep a good image of this competition.

"It's supposed to be fun and getting people into fitness. It's not about the athletes."

Dubai Fitness organisers did not respond to several requests for comment.