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WADA chief says drugs cheats shouldn't go to jail

Sir Craig Reedie says dopers should face sporting sanctions, not criminal ones

Sir Craig Reedie, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), says athletes caught using performance-enhancing drugs should be sanctioned under anti-doping rules established by sporting bodies and not through the criminal law.

Reedie was commenting on a draft law in Germany, expected to be approved in April, that would see athletes found using or in possession of doping products face a jail term of up to three years, reports the Associated Press.

Speaking at a meeting of WADA’s foundation board in Paris at the weekend, he said: "An athlete should be sanctioned under the sports rules which have been developed over many years, and he should not be sanctioned under criminal law.

"People who say: `If you cheat, you will be put in jail,' that is not something with which we are comfortable," Reedie said. "We do not believe that that should happen."

While a number of countries have criminalised the trafficking of doping products and also use existing legislation regarding fraud against drugs cheats, as this article from the Australian parliament outlines, some have gone even further and implemented specific laws.

Those include Austria, which has a law specifically addressing fraud in a sporting context, Italy, which created three separate crimes relating to doping under a law enacted in 2000, France and Spain.

Cases related to cycling brought under criminal law include that of Stefan Matschiner, the former agent of Bernard Kohl and Michael Rasmussen, both of whom received doping bans. 

Matschiner was convicted in 2010 by an Austrian court of helping riders undertake blood doping, and of selling prohibited substances to them and was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment.

Reedie, who from 1992 to 2005 was chairman of the British Olympic Association, also confirmed an increase of 3 per cent in WADA’s funding ahead of the implementation, from 1 January, of the updated World Anti-Doping Code.

Under the new rules, athletes guilty of a first-time doping offence will see their bans increased to four years instead of the current two years.

With a little over a year and a half to go until the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, he also said that WADA was “working closely” with Brazil’s national anti-doping agency to ensure that the city’s anti-doping laboratory was re-accredited ahead of the event.

WADA withdrew accreditation last year since the facility did not meet its quality standards. At this year’s FIFA World Cup, held in Brazil, samples were sent to Switzerland for analysis.

"It is important that we have the laboratory in Rio re-accredited so that it doesn't make any mistakes," Reedie explained.

"It made some mistakes, which is why it lost its accreditation. But nothing would be worse for athletes than to take part in the competition when they knew there was any question of wrong results from a laboratory that we used to test the samples."

The agency also revealed that individual countries including France, Japan and Russia had joined others such as China and the United States in contributing towards a new anti-doping research fund that will seek to develop new ways of detecting banned substances and methods.

Money pledged for the project now stands at around $10 million, with match funding from the International Olympic Committee taking the total to $20 million.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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