Four-year ban for athletes caught using drugs?
MONTREAL, Canada - The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has sought to redefine its role as a sports watchdog in the wake of robust allegations of a doping conspiracy involving cyclist Lance Armstrong, and has proposed doubling bans for athletes caught using performance-enhancing drugs.
At a weekend gathering in Montreal, WADA reviewed a draft code that would slap a four-year ban on anyone convicted of using anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and masking agents or trafficking in these substances.
The code, which would also give the anti-doping agency powers of investigation, will be finalized next year and take effect in 2015.
"There is a desire to increase penalties, to increase sanctions," WADA Chairman John Fahey told reporters on Monday, November 19, after a two-day meeting of the organization's foundation board.
"And if you look at that the four-year (penalty), it certainly invariably will take out somebody competing at the next Olympics once it's imposed on someone. It covers some of the things that certainly the Olympic movement believed ought to have been covered with their own rule in the past."
In the past WADA has come under fire, notably by the British Olympic Association (BOA), whose chairman accused the anti-doping agency of colossal failure in cracking down on cheating.
In November 2011, BOA Chairman Colin Moynihan claimed that WADA's role should be reviewed.
"Regrettably, despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the 10 years since its creation, WADA has been unable to achieve its own, well-intentioned, objectives," Moynihan said.
Fahey dismissed comments that stricter sanctions would face opposition by Britain on the one hand - urging tougher reform - or by others who might call the four-year ban draconian.
"I don't see any one of those associated with anti-doping saying that there should be different penalties other than those that are there. IOC (International Olympic Committee) members at our meeting this weekend made no comment with respect to the proposed four years.
"I see no evidence of any concerns expressed by anybody since we've started this review process," Fahey said.
He said he was confident, too, that the ban would not be challenged by courts.
"I am confident that the four-year (penalty) won't breach, on the advice we've received, any current law in any part of the world."
On the weekend, Fahey praised the work of his predecessor, WADA's founding president Dick Pound.
Fahey said Pound -- who waged a notoriously public battle against the UCI and Armstrong, its star rider for years -- has been thoroughly vindicated.
"Dick Pound was vocal. He was certainly vindicated in the stand that he took," Fahey said.
Fahey said the IOC was wrong to put Pound under scrutiny, and the UCI was wrong to sue Pound for defamation.
"He made some statements that there's now absolutely no doubt had full substance in them. That was wrong, if you look at it today."
Fahey lauded the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) probe for exposing "a sophisticated sham" and bristled on Monday at suggestions that it had overstepped its boundaries by investigating the supply, use and distribution of drugs involving teams associated with Armstrong.
"USADA acted within the code itself and within the laws of the United States, so I don't believe there is any substance whatsoever in suggestions that USADA went beyond what they had a capacity to do."
"USADA achieved the outcome they achieved not on testing, not on analysis of samples, but on simply being smart in they way in which they went to many witnesses," Fahey pointed out.
"Independently those witnesses corroborated one another, and a history of offenses was simply just built up that became irrefutable because of the sheer weight of the evidence and information that was given. And that information was given under oath," he went on to say.
"That in itself led to the most comprehensive of judgements that the recent decision is. And I don't believe anybody could have the slightest doubt that what is contained in that judgement is incorrect in any way." - Agence France-Presse