World sports bodies welcome stricter anti-doping rules

Global sporting bodies voiced wide support for more stringent punishment of athletes who use banned performance-enhancers as they discussed revised rules at a conference Wednesday.

People listent to a speech on second day of a World Conference on Doping in Sport to discuss the future of the battle against banned substances, on November 13, 2013 in Johannesburg

Delegates welcomed longer bans for athletes caught doping intentionally, which will pass from two years to four when the new anti-doping code comes into effect in 2015.

But surprisingly powerful global athletics body the IAAF called for even harder crackdowns on culprits, signalling "clean" athletes frustrations that dopers sometimes go free amid low numbers of abnormal tests.

"The theme that came through time and time again, is we are working for the clean athletes of the world," said outgoing World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president John Fahey after a second day of discussions.

"The overwhelming majority of athletes who made submissions... made it abundantly clear that a more severe penalty was what they wanted," Fahey told journalists.

FIFA backed four-year bans, but said doping risks were lower with fewer possible drugs and the global footballing body's extensive screening programmes.

"We have nothing against that civil violation of the anti-doping regulations are sanctioned by four years," FIFA chief medical officer Jiri Dvorak told AFP.

"Let's put it in the perspective. In football, we have somewhere between five to eight anabolic steroids caes a year so it's not really a huge number."

For the past three years FIFA has built up biological passports of sportsmen -- a database of tests which helps to detect deviations outside normal levels in each individual.

The football body will continue to do this for the World Cup in Brazil next year, flying samples to Lausanne in Switzerland after WADA revoked the accreditation of the laboratory in Rio da Janeiro.

American anti-doping agency USADA was also in favour of stringent punishments, a year after it handed a lifetime ban to fallen cycling hero Lance Armstrong.

"We support what clean athletes support," USADA CEO Travis Tygart told AFP, adding that some sports people had called for life bans in general, but later came down to four years.

Proportionality was the big word, with debates around if the punishment fit the crime.

The International Skating Union (ISU) was a lone voice that worried four years would be too long and could end an athlete's career prematurely.

It also worried that trying to enforce such a ban would undermine the authority of WADA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

But Fahey said "there were very few submissions in all the submissions that came through that did not support tougher punishment for the potential dopers."

At the other end of the scale the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) thought the new measures did not go far enough.

"Time will tell whether the sanction regime under the new code will make more severe penalties the norm. Frankly we believe there are too many means of escape," IAAF council member Abby Hoffman told delegates.

Athletes got off too easily if they claimed accidental doping or admitted to the deed after being caught out. In such cases the ban will be reduced to two years.

"When clear evidence of cheating is presented, four years must truly mean four years," said Hoffman.

Less than one percent of doping checks give an abnormal result, though tests have jumped from 150,000 a year to 250,000 since WADA's creation 14 years ago.

The conference is due to ratify the code on Friday, and governments and federations will have a year to change their rules accordingly.

The meeting will also confirm its new president at the end of the week.

Scotsman Craig Reedie, an International Olympic Committee deputy president, is the only candidate and his appointment is seen as a formality.

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Writer: AFP
Position: News agency