Participants gather at the WADA meeting in Almaty ©Almaty 2022

Kazakhstan has attempted to underline its commitment to anti-doping by hosting the 12th Asia and Oceania Region Intergovernmental Ministerial Meeting on Anti-Doping in Sport in Almaty, attracting 60 participants from 26 countries. 

The annual meeting, organised by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), is designed to promote, coordinate and monitor the fight against doping in sport in all forms at the international level, with this year's event covering topics spanning the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code, Asian Contributions to WADA and the activities and partnerships of National and Regional Anti Doping Organisations.

Coming in the final stages of Almaty's bid for the 2022 Olympics and Paralympics, where the city is locked in a two-horse race with Chinese capital Beijing, Kazakhstan is keen to show a firm anti-doping stance following doubts over how committed it is to clean sport. 

This has chiefly involved the Kazakhstan-based Astana Pro Team cycling franchise of Italian Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali, controversially re-awarded a World Tour licence by the International Cycling Union for this season in April, despite a string of doping cases involving Kazakh riders.

Brother Maxim and Valentin Iglinsky both tested positive for erythropoietin, while young rider Ilya Davidenok returned an adverse analytical finding for anabolic androgenic steroids.

Astana general manager, London 2012 cycling road race champion Alexander Vinokourov, is also a controversial figure, having been caught for doping during the 2007 Tour de France before returning to the sport following a two-year ban.

Vinkourov was initially appointed as an Almaty 2022 Bid Ambassador, only to resign from the role following criticism over his association with doping.  

Officials gather at the Board meeting, including Almaty 2022 vice chair, and WADA Board member, Andrey Kryukov (left) and WADA director general David Howman (third left) ©Almaty 2022
Officials gather at the Board meeting, including Almaty 2022 vice chair, and WADA Board member, Andrey Kryukov (left) and WADA director general David Howman (third left) ©Almaty 2022

At the same time, however, Kazakhstan has also become a regional hub for anti-doping control, ratifying the International Convention against Doping in Sport in 2009 before establishing a National Anti-Doping Centre in 2012.

"WADA is a unique partnership between the sport movement and governments, with its main aim being to protect the clean athlete and provide a level playing field for all" said WADA director general David Howman following the meeting.

"Rapid development of sports infrastructure in Kazakhstan allowed the country to become a leader in fight against doping in sport within [the] Central Asia region.

"As the head office of the Regional Anti-Doping Organisation, Almaty is responsible for coordinating anti-doping across eight countries in the region.

"Thus, today's meeting is the unique platform helping to foster the combination and complementing of sports’ and Governments’ respective resources and assets, and results in a coordinated and cohesive approach to anti-doping."

As well as Howman, due to step down from his WADA position next year, others in attendance included Saken Mussaibekov, Kazakhstan's Vice-Minister of Culture and Sport, and Andrey Kryukov, the WADA Foundation Board member and the vice-chairman of Almaty 2022. 

"Today’s anti-doping discussions are of great importance to the entire sporting society of Kazakhstan," said Kryukov, who had defended the hiring of Vinokourov as a bid ambassador on the grounds he had served his punishment and deserved a second chance.

"Almaty is the major sports centre in our country and our WADA recognised Anti-Doping Lab is a huge asset to our bid to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.

"We believe that the measures taken to combat doping in sport will contribute to the promotion of sports and culture of healthy lifestyles in Kazakhstan."

Related stories
April 2015:
 Astana Pro Team to retain UCI World Tour licence
February 2015: Exclusive: Vinokourov resigns as Bid Ambassador for Almaty 2022
February 2015: Almaty 2022 defends use of former doping cheat as Bid Ambassado
May 2014: Kazakhstan claims at RADO Conference it is serious about tackling doping
April 2014: Astana Presidential Sports Club outlines vision to boost Kazakhstan's image