[author: Jonathan Salt]
Between 12-15 November 2013 WADA hosted the Fourth World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg. As previously reported in Sports, Media and Entertainment Online the new code was set to be reviewed and approved at the conference with a view to taking effect on 1 January 2015.
The conference saw WADA approve a series of measures including stricter punishments for anti-doping violations. Article 10.2.1 increases the athletes ban from all competition, for cheating involving serious doping substances, from two to four years. This change ensures that any athlete who is found guilty of intentionally doping will miss an Olympic Games. Additionally any athletes that choose not to co-operate with the testing process can face a lengthy ban lasting up to four years.
WADA’s tougher approach towards athletes intentionally doping is counterbalanced by an increased element of flexibility to reduce punishment for certain types of offending athletes (similar provisions previously discussed by Sports, Media and Entertainment Online available here). Article 10.6 incentivises athletes to co-operate in investigations, offering a reduced ban in return for ‘substantial assistance’ with doping investigations. Athletes who are found to have breached the code through no significant fault of their own could see a reduction in ban periods or in certain instances being absolved from sanctions.
The new code recognises that the doping athlete is often not the only guilty party. A person or team of people supporting the athlete can have a crucial role facilitating or covering up offences. To combat the issue Article 2.9 states any involvement in an anti-doping violation committed by another person (such as helping cover up a violation) will be sanctioned with a ban of up to four years (Article 10.3.4) and Article 2.10 states it will be a violation for any athlete or person to associate in a sport related or professional capacity with athletic support personnel who have been found guilty of a criminal or disciplinary offence equivalent to a doping violation.
Other key changes include an increased emphasis on intelligent methods of investigation outside of traditional drugs testing. This builds on the recent trend of high profile athletes being found guilty of doping as a result of criminal investigations. Article 6.4 requires Anti-Doping Organisations to develop risk-assessment based ‘testing menus’ that focus on specific substances appropriate to the individual sports and disciplines. The code also increases the limitation periods within which the Anti-Doping Organisation can charge a person committing a doping violation from eight years to ten years under Article 17.
Changes have been widely welcomed in the UK, with Sport Minister Helen Grant saying: “Doping has absolutely no place in sport and will not be tolerated. The public must have confidence that the sport they see is true and fair. Tackling doping requires a strong partnership between Government and sport and we have that in the UK. I support these changes to the World Anti-Doping Code that will help step up the global fight against drug cheats, suppliers, traffickers and anyone involved in doping.”