Official: Lifetime drug bans won't stick

Updated: October 11, 2011, 2:29 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- Sanctions for drug offenders must remain "proportionate" and lifetime Olympic bans do not appear legally enforceable, a World Anti-Doping Agency executive said Tuesday.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport last week threw out an IOC rule that bars any athlete who has received a doping suspension of more than six months from competing in the next games.

That has put Britain's policy of imposing lifetime Olympics bans under scrutiny less than a year before the London Games.

"Everyone wants the fight against doping in sport to be as tough, as rigorous, as robust as possible," WADA's European director Frederic Donze told The Associated Press. "But at the same time, the fight against doping in sport needs to be proportionate and needs to actually respect the rights of the athletes and be able actually to be defended before a civil court if needed."

Before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the British Olympic Association won a court ruling that prevented sprinter Dwain Chambers from overturning its lifetime ban rule, which has been in place since 1992. Chambers, a former European 100-meter champion, served a two-year ban in the BALCO scandal.

The Montreal-based WADA has asked the BOA to review its policy of imposing lifetime bans after CAS recently cleared the way for LaShawn Merritt of the United States to defend his 400-meter title in London. Merritt, who completed a 21-month doping suspension in July, had previously been ineligible for the games under the IOC rule.

The International Olympic Committee athletes' forum this week recommended "athletes convicted of a deliberate and aggravated doping offenses should receive a lifetime Olympic ban."

"A number of people including athletes want lifetime bans for a first anti-doping rule violation," Donze said. "We all would like that in an ideal world, but when the (WADA) code was first drafted and then further revised in 2009 we asked for legal advice.

"The answer from the legal experts was to say that if you impose a lifetime ban for first-time anti-doping rule violation for an athlete, that may be actually challenged before the courts -- all types of courts -- and that might be a true challenge to the fight against doping in sport and not be sustainable."

Donze said WADA wants an anti-doping policy that is "harmonized across the sports and all countries."

"(CAS) suggested that the bylaws of the IOC was not an eligibility matter, but might be an additional sanction to those already imposed by the world anti-doping code," he said.

Donze spoke in London after helping launch an international anti-doping campaign ahead of the 2012 London Games. The "Win Clean: Say No to Doping" poster was displayed next to the countdown clock in Trafalgar Square.

Britain's anti-doping chief Andy Parkinson said such campaigns have often been too focused on a domestic level.

"For the countries out there that don't have the education programs in place, this can be their education campaign ... because we recognize that every country isn't as well resourced as Britain, Australia or the U.S.," Parkinson said.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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