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WADA against jail terms for athletes

PARIS -- The World Anti-Doping Agency said it is against the imposition of criminal sanctions on cheating athletes despite a tougher code that will come into effect on Jan. 1.

At a meeting of its members on Sunday, WADA also announced that pledges for the creation of an anti-doping research fund reached more than $10 million, matching the financial investment made by the International Olympic Committee. The joint project will therefore have a budget of about $20 million.

"An athlete should be sanctioned under the sports rules which have been developed over many years," WADA President Craig Reedie said, "and he should not be sanctioned under criminal law."

WADA said it is working to make sure the laboratory in Rio de Janeiro gets re-accredited for the 2016 Olympic Games.

The new anti-doping code will punish first-time offenders with four-year bans instead of two years of suspension. It will also put a greater emphasis on investigation and gathering intelligence.

However, Reedie distanced himself from a German draft law, which cites jail terms of up to three years for professional athletes caught using, or possessing, performance-enhancing drugs. The bill is expected to go to the Cabinet for approval in April.

"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."

In the fight against doping, WADA received a financial boost on Sunday with a three-percent budget increase for 2015 approved by the foundation board. It also announced pledges from the Ivory Coast, Japan, Qatar, Russia, France, Sweden and Peru, joining Turkey, Korea, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, China and the United States as donators for its research fund that will explore new techniques for the detection of prohibited substances and methods.

In reply to the athletes' concerns about the quality of the doping tests at the Rio Games, Reedie said WADA is "working closely" with the national anti-doping organization in Brazil.

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

WADA revoked the credentials of the drug-testing laboratory in Rio de Janeiro last year because it failed to comply with the agency's standards, forcing FIFA to turn to a Swiss lab for the analysis of the 2014 World Cup samples.

Rita Jeptoo was among the high-profile cheats this year. She tested positive in an out-of-competition test in Kenya in September, a few weeks before winning her second consecutive Chicago Marathon.

WADA recently met Kenyan officials in Cape Town to help them establish the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya with the Norwegian and Chinese agencies providing technical training and guidance.

"Kenya produces many of the very best middle and long distance runners in the world," Reedie said. "It is very much in Kenya's interest to have this treated properly."