Four separate shipments of substances prohibited in sports were seized during March 2015 by the Customs Authority in Hamad International Airport (HIA), according to Vice Chairman of the Qatar National Anti-Doping Commission (QNADC), Dr Nasser Al Ansari, and were turned over to the QNADC.

The latest shipment of seized substances consisted of growth hormones, anabolic agents, and testosterone – substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in a variety of sports. This shipment in particular is likely to be used by amateur bodybuilders who often organise small tournaments amongst themselves, says Dr Al Ansari.

According to Executive Director of the Commission, Dr Fatima Al Malki, the Commission usually receives eight to nine seized shipments a year from the Customs Authority, so this year’s number of shipments of prohibited substances already indicates a marked increase from previous years. She said:

The first step in seizing these substances is the Customs Authority in HIA. Customs then turn these shipments over to the Pharmacy and Drug Control unit of the Supreme Council of Health who then transfer the substances to the QNADC headquarters in the Olympic Tower where they are stored for eight months should they be needed as evidence.’

Founded by the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) in March 2007, the Commission is a crucial part of Qatar’s sporting infrastructure. The QNADC’s role is to carry out the anti-doping function on behalf of the QOC and act as the independent anti-doping organisation for Qatar. In an effort to further augment Qatar’s commitment to anti-doping, the Anti-Doping Lab Qatar (ADLQ) was founded in December 2007 and is expected to attain full WADA accreditation in 2015. Commenting on the Commission’s relationship with the ADLQ, Dr Al Ansari said:

We work independently from the Anti-Doping Lab Qatar so that there is never a conflict of interests. This is the case in leading anti-doping countries abroad, such as the UK and France for example. The ADLQ is doing tremendous work and we all look forward to it achieving full WADA accreditation soon. In the meantime, we have been sending our samples abroad to other fully-accredited labs, as per WADA’s requirements.’

The QNADC is composed of a Therapeutic Use Exemption Committee (TUE) and a Result Management Committee. The TUE Committee is composed of physicians who assess the validity of athletes’ use of prescription medicine. Dr Al Ansari said:

The Therapeutic Use Exemption Committee serves a very sensitive role within the Commission. They must decide that the athletes actually need the medicine they are taking and that the dosage is correct for said usage.’

The Result Management Committee is composed of a Disciplinary Panel, which investigates athletes caught using prohibited substances and issues the appropriate sanctions, and an Appeals Panel, to which athletes can submit their appeal within 14 days of the former panel’s decision. Currently, there is no law in Qatar that penalises the importation or use of substances prohibited by WADA, which will not be the case for long according to Dr Al Malki. She said:

We’ve already completed drafting a law that will ban the importation by individuals of prohibited substances such as the ones we have received today. The law will also penalize the use of these substances and will enact harsher sanctions against sport staff caught using or importing them.’

The draft law, which is due to be submitted to Qatar’s Cabinet of Ministers, will ban athletes, coaches and technical staff caught using or importing prohibited substances. This ban will be from all aspects of sports so that, for example, technical staff banned from one sport cannot work in another sport, explained Dr Al Malki.

Dr Al Ansari added:

The problem is that a lot of these athletes just don’t grasp how bad these substances are for them, and the damage they do to their bodies by using them. They’re still young so their bodies can take a lot of abuse, but at some point they will suffer gravely for doping and unfortunately at that point it is often far too late. This is why it is incredibly important for us to inform every one of the dangers of doping.’

Another core objective of the Commission is to educate athletes, as well as the general public, on the hazards of doping. To this end the QNADC has published a variety of literature targeting various age groups all with the aim of raising awareness on the massive health risks associated with doping. The latest use of this literature was during the finals of Schools Olympic Program, a multisport competition targeting school children aged 5 to 18 from across Qatar.