Athletes caught committing serious doping offenses such as using anabolic steroids or human growth hormone may be banned for four years instead of two, the World Anti-Doping Agency said.
WADA’s proposal is part of a review of its World Anti- Doping Code, which is scheduled to come into force in 2015. The agency is facing calls for tougher penalties after high-profile cases including track and field athletes and former Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong.
“The code review is intended to increase the effectiveness of anti-doping, and athletes must know that there is a heavy price to pay for intentional doping, that the risks are high,” WADA President John Fahey said in a statement on its website. “I am confident this draft will deliver that message loud and clear, and that our own stakeholders will agree.”
Under the proposals, four-year bans would apply to violations including the use of anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and masking agents as well as trafficking.
Currently, athletes who are found guilty of a serious violation are suspended for two years, followed by a life-ban should another positive test follow.
The so-called Osaka rule -- which bans athletes who received a doping sanction of more than six months from taking part in the next Olympic Games -- was not included in the draft proposals.
Introduced in 2008, the Osaka rule was deemed unlawful by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in April. This paved the way for athletes who had served drug suspensions in the past, such as British sprinter Dwain Chambers and U.S. runner LaShawn Merritt, to compete in the London Olympics.
Speaking on a conference call from Montreal today, Fahey said he was “confident” the tougher penalties “won’t breach any current law in any part of the world.”
WADA further said its annual budget of close to $28 million had been frozen for a second straight year amid the global economic downturn. As a result, the organization has had to dip into its reserves to cover shortfalls for its operating costs.
Although Fahey today said that as a former finance minister in Australia he understood the budgetary restraint -- WADA gets its funding from governments and the International Olympic Committee -- the funding freeze may have repercussions for the fight against doping in the future.
“We’re nearly down to using that reserve, and the day is coming when if we won’t get a reasonable increase in our budget, then we will have to seriously look at cutting programs,” Fahey said. “I think that would be a tragedy. We need more money to be more effective.”
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