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Although quotes by its director general David Howman recently appeared to advocate prison terms for doping, the World Anti Doping Agency WADA has issued a statement denying that this is its position.
Speaking at the 25th Australian and New Zealand Sports Law Association conference in Melbourne, Howman said earlier this month that time behind bars could be a far more effective deterrent against doping than suspensions from sport.
“I want to pose the question: should doping be a criminal matter?” he asked.
“It is in Italy, and we think – some of us – that the real deterrent that cheating athletes fear is the fear of going to prison. Not the fear of being stood down from their sport for a year, two years, four years but a fear of going to prison.”
WADA moved to clarify the situation on Monday.
“WADA does not wish to interfere in the sovereign right of any government to make laws for its people,” it stated. “However the Agency believes that the sanction process for athletes, which includes a right of appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), is a settled process, accepted by all governments of the world, and further that the sanctions for a doping violation by an athlete, which now includes a longer, four-year period of ineligibility, have been globally accepted by sport and government.
“As such, the Agency does not believe that doping should be made a criminal offence for athletes.”
However it does want possible prison terms for others involved in the sphere of doping products.
“WADA and its partners in the anti-doping community do however encourage governments to introduce laws that penalize those who are trafficking and distributing banned substances; those individuals who are ultimately putting banned substances into the hands of athletes,” it said.
“This is a commitment that governments made in ratifying the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport in 2005.”
Explaining this position, it acknowledges that countries with criminal legislation for doping have been effective in catching those who possess or traffic such products. It explains this as being a result of those athlete support personal deciding to cooperate with anti-doping authorities due to the threat of being imprisoned.
“We have seen evidence of this in Italy, for example, with a large number of Italian nationals currently listed as having ‘disqualifying status’ under the Prohibited Association clause of the Code – a list that was first issued by WADA in September.”
Italy and France are two countries where doping is illegal. In many other areas the use of such products is forbidden under WADA’s rules, but not by criminal legislation.