The World Anti-Doping Agency has proposed doubling the penalties from two years to four for abuse of substances including anabolic steroids and human growth hormone.
In the wake of the debate sparked by US athlete LaShawn Merritt's success in overturning an International Olympic Committee rule that would have banned him from London 2012, a number of signatories to the Wada code argued for stronger sanctions.
As a result of the new proposal, which would double the maximum penalty for a series of offences including trafficking and use of masking agents, discussions about including a version of the IOC's so-called Osaka rule – which banned any athlete suspended for more than six months from the Games that followed – were dropped. If four-year bans are enforced, it would ban cheats from the Olympics that followed in any case. "It is clear from the number of submissions we received, that there is a strong desire in the world of sport, from governments and within the anti-doping community, to strengthen the sanction articles in the Code," said the Wada president, John Fahey. "This second draft has done that, doubling the length of suspension for serious offenders and widening the scope for anti-doping organisations to impose lifetime bans."
In the wake of Merritt's case, the British Olympic Association fought a losing battle to maintain its lifetime ban for drug cheats. Its new chairman, Lord Coe, said this month he would continue to fight for stronger sanctions.
The latest draft of the code, which also gives Wada new investigative powers to act when governing bodies appear unwilling to do so, is subject to a third and final consultation period, which runs until 1 March next year. The new code would come into force in 2015. Wada also said that because governments around the world, which split its funding 50/50 with the IOC, had refused to increase their contributions its funding would be frozen at $28m for the second year running.
"This is the second year in a row that we have received a zero per cent increase, and while we appreciate that economies across the world continue to struggle, this freeze is not ideal for the fight against doping in sport," said Fahey. "It is widely accepted that doping is a major issue no longer restricted to the sporting world, and that it must be addressed by society as a whole."
He said Wada had dipped into its reserves for the previous two years to cover operating costs but that if funding remained flat it would have to cut back on its operations.
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