A doubling of the standard ban for first-time doping offences from two to four years is one of the measures that will be voted on next week at the World Conference on Doping in Sport to be held by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The proposed change would take effect from 1 January 2015 under the new version of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) currently being considered and is one of a series of measures WADA wants to bring in with the aim of getting tougher on drugs cheats and the people who facilitate and encourage doping.
It also wants to place greater emphasis on investigations of the type that snared Lance Armstrong rather than focusing solely on blood and urine tests to catch athletes who dope, reports South African website, Sport24.co.za.
Other measures expected to be adopted at the conference, which will run from Tuesday 12 to Friday 15 November include extending the statute of limitations under the WADC from eight to ten years – meaning that samples could be stored for longer ahead of retesting – and introducing stiffer penalties for coaches and others involved in helping athletes dope.
The proposed four-year ban is aimed in part at ensuring that athletes banned for doping will not be able to take part in the following Olympic Games.
In October 2011, then Olympic men’s 400m champion LaShawn Merritt of the USA won a case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which ruled that Rule 45 of the International Olympic Committee’s Charter, which banned athletes who have served a doping ban of six months or more from competing at the next Games after returning from their ban, was invalid.
CAS said that the rule meant athletes would be punished twice for a single offence, and that because the WADC is adopted by incorporation within the Olympic Charter, it was in conflict with the Charter itself.
The CAS decision would lead to WADA successfully challenging – also at CAS – the lifetime Olympic selection ban imposed by the British Olympic Association (BOA) on athletes found guilty of a doping offence, paving the way for David Millar to ride for Team GB in support of Mark Cavendish at the men’s road race at London 2012.
WADA has reportedly consulted a judge at the Court of Human Rights to ensure that the planned four year ban would stand up, and UK Anti-Doping chief executive commented: "I can't see it not being accepted to be honest."
The tougher measures that WADA is intending to introduce, as well as the shift in focus away from relying purely on testing, reflect the reality of the environment and budget that anti-doping authorities have to work within, says the agency’s director general, David Howman.
"We've got a budget of not even the salary that Wayne Rooney earns at Manchester United," he explained.
"I think what you have to do is say, 'Right, how do you make the bucks you have go as far as they possibly can to get rid of those rotten apples?'"
The conference will be attended by leading figures from the world of sports administration including the new president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, and Brian Cookson, elected president of world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, in September.
Next week, WADA delegates have their own presidential election to consider, with the Australian John Fahey stepping down, but it will be a lot less acrimonious an affair than that for the UCI presidency, which saw Cookson replace Pat McQuaid – there is only one candidate.
That man is Great Britain’s Sir Craig Reedie, chairman of the BOA from 1992 to 2005 and currently an IOC vice-president, whose relationship with Cookson in helping cycling combat the drugs cheats is likely to be less acrimonious than that which existed between Fahey and McQuaid, who regularly crossed swords in public.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.