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WADA to vote next week on doubling doping bans to 4 years

World Conference on Doping in Sport takes place in Johannesburg next week

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.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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