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Sports Federations Adopt Global Anti-Doping Code - 2003-03-05

A global anti-doping code for athletes has been approved by international sports federations and more than 70 governments. The sports federations will have to implement the code in time for next year's Athens Olympics.

The World Anti-Doping Code, adopted Wednesday in Copenhagen, establishes uniform drug testing regulations covering all sports and all countries.

The list of substances prohibited in the new code includes steroids, stimulants, blood boosting hormones, as well as any form of genetic doping.

The code mandates two-year suspensions for first time offenders. Two-time offenders can be banned from sports competitions for life.

All sports federations will be required to be in compliance with the code in time for next year's Olympics in Athens. But governments have a little more time. They must have the ban in place before the start of the Turin Winter Games in 2006.

Approval of the code came after days of disagreement, and eventual compromise at the Copenhagen meeting of WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency. FIFA, the world's soccer governing body, and the international cycling federation had opposed the mandatory two year ban because it makes no provision for exceptional circumstances that might arise, such as an athlete who has taken a cold tablet not knowing it contains a banned substance.

The code was approved only after the anti-doping agency agreed to FIFA's request to consider the two-year rule as guidance only until a working group has a chance to address the exceptional circumstances issue.

Several delegations at the conference urged WADA to get tough with professional sports leagues in the United States, which will not be forced to comply with the anti-doping regulations. U.S. sports leagues are privately financed and independent of the government, meaning they are under no obligation to follow any anti-doping rules.

The president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Dennis Oswald, called it unacceptable that professional leagues are excluded from the code. He said work would continue in an effort to apply anti-doping penalties to all athletes.

WADA officials said players from the U.S. National Basketball Association and other professional leagues will face the same drug testing procedures as any other athletes if they plan to compete at the Athens Olympics.