11/05/2013 10:12 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Anonymous snitch line set up to crack down on doping among elite athletes

OTTAWA - With the Sochi Winter Olympics fast approaching, overseers of Canada's elite athletes are hoping to avoid a post-podium national embarrassment.

In an effort to catch cheaters, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport launched an anonymous snitch line Tuesday where athletes and others connected to sport can report allegations of doping.

The announcement comes on the heels of last week's revelations by Victoria cyclist Ryder Hesjedal, who admitted to doping more than a decade ago.

Canadians want to be reassured that every effort is being made to prevent an embarrassing spectacle in Sochi, centre president and CEO Paul Melia told a news conference in Ottawa.

Melia cited the bitter memory of the moment Jamaican-born sprinter Ben Johnson was stripped of his Olympic gold medal after being disqualified for doping at the 1988 Summer Games.

"No one wants to see a Canadian athlete receive a medal on Friday only to see it taken away on Saturday," he said.

"We lived that once. We don't want to live it again."

To aid in the anti-doping effort, the federal government and the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees are contributing a combined $1 million toward the fight against illegal performance enhancements.

The money will help boost testing of athletes in the four months prior to the Sochi Olympics, say organizers.

It will also strengthen the investigative capacity of Canada's anti-doping program, said Bal Gosal, Canada's minister of state for sport.

The announcement also comes in advance of an international anti-doping conference being held next week in South Africa, where a new code of standards is expected to be adopted by sports organizations and government around the world.

A "Report Doping Hotline" (1-800-710-CCES) has been set up to encourage anyone with knowledge of doping in amateur sport to come forward.

It's just one more step toward more fairness in sports, says Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut, who acknowledged Tuesday that his committee has done little until now to address the problem.

"Fairness, clean play and integrity need to become prerequisites in international Competition," he said.

"Competing against the world's best in an equitable manner is what sport is all about."

It's the first time the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport and the Canadian Olympic Committee have formally collaborated to tackle an issue.

Aubut said only became concerned about high-profile doping cases when he saw media coverage about it while waiting for a plane back home after travelling to Sochi in advance of the Games.

That's when he came to the realization that Canada is vulnerable to a doping scandal of its own, said Aubut.

"I read about this, and it shocked me," he said.