POSTED: November 27th 2012

Rogge backs the Wada plan to stiffen drug penalties

IOC President Dr. Jacques Rogge has always been an advocate of doping free sport / IOC
IOC President Dr. Jacques Rogge has always been an advocate of doping free sport / IOC

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

November 27 - Dr. Jacques Rogge has added his considerable weight to the move to ensure that anyone who has been penalised for a serious doping offence, such as taking hormone drugs, will be suspended for four years.

Of course, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recognised immediately that such a ban would mean that the so-called ‘Osaka’ rule would at last be firmly in place. This was the regulation that the IOC brought in to try to stop anyone guilty of a serious drugs offence from competing at the next Olympic Games.

This had to be abandoned after the Court of Arbitration in Sport decided that such a rule was unfair because it was a second punishment for the same offence and was contrary to the Code of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada). This judgement therefore allowed competitors such as the American LaShawn Merritt, the 2008 Olympic 400 metres champion, who had been suspended for a serious offence, to defend his title in London, although, in fact as it turned out, the athlete was injured in a heat and never even made the final.

In the next version of the Wada Code, where there is already the option of a four-year ban in “aggravating circumstances”, the wording is expected to be much tougher, obliging international federations and anti-doping bodies to enact the suspension, where it is applicable.

Dr. Rogge said this week: ”We are waiting for the final text but already what is on the table today is something that is heartening for us.” Of course, there have been occasions in the past when individuals have been banned for four years, such as when they have supplied drugs to other people, although few sports to have applied such a sanction on a regular basis, an exception being the International Weightlifting Federation.

The question is whether such a four year ban would be legally enforceable, when it comes into force in 2015. Most weightlifters hardly have enough money for extra bottles of milk, let alone the available cash to pay lawyers to challenge such a suspension in court.

However, sooner or later, someone in a sport, where individuals command high fees, will surely do so, claiming that a four-year ban is disproportionate for someone earning his or her living in the activity. During the 1990s, the International Association of Athletics Federations had to face several such challenges, most notably from Katrin Krabbe, the 1991 double world sprint champion, who successfully overturned her four-year ban in a German court.

However, John Fahey, the Wada President, is now confident that a four-year ban will stand up, saying “whenever we look at strengthening sanctions for doping offences we need to take into account the principle of reasonability and human rights.”

He says that the Wada has taken legal advice on this change, something that is strongly desired by many of its stakeholders, including governments and international federations. One strong argument in its favour is that hormone drugs, such as anabolic steroids, can continue to have a beneficial effect on a competitor long after the athlete has stopped taking them. A four-year ban would therefore decrease the chances of a competitor gaining an unfair advantage over his or her rivals.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2012 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 12th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.

Keywords · Jacques Rogge · IOC · WADA · anti-doping

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