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November 15, 2013

New Anti-Doping Guidelines Aim to Keep Sports Clean

by Anita Powell

The World Anti-Doping Agency has passed a new set of guidelines that officials say will keep sports clean.  But are the guidelines strict enough, or are they too strict? 

WADA officials say the new code, passed unanimously on Friday, will make it tougher than ever for athletes to cheat with performance-enhancing drugs. 

A notable change is the doubling of bans - from two to four years - in cases of intentional doping, along with penalties for coaches and entourages who help athletes cheat.  The code also penalIzes athletes who refuse to help out in doping investigations; in return, athletes who do cooperate may receive reduced sanctions.

“We've got stronger sanctions for those who intentionally dope," explained departing WADA President John Fahey, who said the new code is both strict and fair. "We've also got greater flexibility when it comes to sanctioning of athletes. 

"All has been done with fair consideration of human rights with an understanding of the principle of proportionality," he added. "There will be greater emphasis on intelligent processes in the future, and on investigations, investigations in particular are seen as essential if we are to do what we must do as effectively as we can.”

Fahey also told VOA the code will protect athletes from developing countries from competitors in wealthier nations.

“It applies equally to athletes no matter what country they come from, what sport they’re involved in, whether they’re male or female," he said.  "It says you will be treated equally if you offend under the rules known as the anti-doping code. 

"What I say to those in emerging nations is that they ought to go forward with confidence, knowing [that] if there are cheats in bigger countries, stronger countries, the likelihood is that they will be caught, because we are becoming more effective.  So there may not well be the disadvantage they think there is.”

Anti-doping officials were quick to point out that it was athletes who asked for stricter sanctions.  WADA secretary-general David Howman said the idea of a four-year ban was initially discussed a decade ago.

“The learning since then, and the desire, I think, of many clean athletes is that we should have looked at it again," he explained.  "So we did that, we started this process in 2012, we asked everyone what they thought. We had a huge amount of consensus to the implementation of a four-year penalty.”

The new code goes into effect at the beginning of 2015, more than a year before the next summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.