WADA considers revising drug code

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BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) – The World Anti-Doping Agency is revamping its code to allow more leniency in minor, accidental cases while getting tougher against serious drug cheats.

FIFA, long one of the code’s toughest critics, and the international track and field federation offered guarded welcomes to the first draft of the revised document.

The 75-page code, which sets out anti-doping rules, procedures and sanctions, has been the centerpiece of the global fight against performance-enhancing drugs for four years.

Many sporting federations have called on WADA to be more flexible in sanctions and show leeway in cases which are clearly unintentional or could not have improved an athlete’s performance.

WADA said the code was always intended to be a “living document” ready for change.

FIFA medical chief Michel D’Hooghe has been a critic for years of the code’s unyielding sanctions and called for each case to be handled individually. The current code calls for two-year suspensions for a first offense.

and a lifetime ban for a second.

“It is obvious that there has been a major step forward on the issue of individual case management,” D’Hooghe said of the first revision. “It cannot be that if you steal a loaf of bread or you rob a bank, you get the same kind of punishment. A sanction has to be relevant to the crime, and that is what we are seeing more now.”

The draft revision leaves the possible penalty for a first violation more open, ranging from a warning to two years, depending on the intent to cheat. Punishment for traffickers or doctors who supply doping substances can be increased to a lifetime exclusion for a first offense.

“This is a positive first step,” said Chris Butler of the International Association of Athletics Federations, specifically applauding the possibility of increased sanctions if clear malicious intent is proven.

Howman said other federation reacted in a similar vein.

“So far, the comments have been positive,” he said.

The code will go through two more revisions before being put up for approval at WADA’s world anti-doping conference Nov. 15-17 in Madrid, Spain. The issue will also be discussed Wednesday at a WADA seminar in Lausanne, Switzerland, where IOC president Jacques Rogge will be among the speakers.

Denis Oswald, an IOC executive board member and president of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, said the code should “embody the principle of ‘proportionality’ regarding sanctions, thus enabling a true case by case investigation.”

David Fitzpatrick, sports director of the International Ice Hockey Federation, said “the arbitrary sanctions for a first violation and second violation does not take into account the individual case management and circumstances of each violation.”

AP-ES-01-22-07 1451EST

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