Tough new sanctions have been approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as it tries to clamp down on drug abuse in sport.
Among the changes is a doubling of the ban for athletes found guilty of doping from two to four years meaning they will miss at least one Olympic Games. The life-ban for a second offence is to remain the same.
The changes have come about after recent doping scandals in sport, starting with Lance Armstrong and his revelations around drugs in cycling, and a slew of top international track and field athletes failing drug tests. They will come into effect from January 1, 2015.
The IAAF has already announced it will be increasing the penalty for those who test positive back to four years from its current level of two from January next year after decreasing it in the late nineties to fall in line with other sports.
Other changes announced by WADA include individual sports receiving their own doping policies and being given advice by WADA on what substances to test for, and greater flexibility to deal with athletes who can prove they have mistakenly taken a banned substance or who co-operate with the authorities.
Coaches who are involved with doping will also be subject to stiffer punishment.
WADA is also switching emphasis from drug testing to greater investigation into doping, like the one used to catch Armstrong, to crack down on cheating. The organisation has been under fire lately, with many in international sport accusing it of being too weak as it said it was powerless to act in the wake of the Jamaican and Kenyan doping cases. WADA hopes the new sanctions will be a way of restoring its authority, and integrity in sport.
The changes have been well-received in the UK, with UK Anti-Doping chief executive Andy Parkinson saying “Today we are delighted that many of the practices already implemented in the UK are now included in the revised code and standards, most notably tougher sanctions for cheats and a focus on intelligence-led and flexible programmes designed to both prevent and detect doping.”
British Olympic Association chairman Lord Coe also backed tougher action against drug cheats in an interview with the BBC, calling for four-years to be the “starting point” so athletes knew missing an Olympics was one of the punishments for doping. He also said he would like to see lifetime bans but knows this is an unrealistic option.
WADA’s changes, which have come after two-years’ of revaluation of its policies, coincide with president John Fahey’s stepping down of his role to be replaced by the IOC’s Craig Reedie.