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It’s a statement that will be greeted by some, but criticised by others. WADA director general David Howman has said 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 said, speaking at the 25th Australian and New Zealand Sports Law Association conference in Melbourne.
“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.”
Howman’s quotes were reported by the The Age and are certain to provoke debate. WADA has upped its standard suspension for serious cases from two to four years, yet some athletes continue to try to cut corners.
His reasoning that making drug use a criminal matter would certainly be an additional deterrent.
There are some indications that it would be effective. During the Lance Armstrong federal investigation many of the Texan’s former team-mates were compelled to give evidence. They admitted doping and gave details of the system at the US Postal Service team, saying afterwards that they decided to talk once they were told they could face charges for perjury if they didn’t tell the truth.
Without that incentive, its likely that at least some of them would have remained tight-lipped.
While that federal investigation was shelved unexpectedly, the US Anti Doping Agency was able to take things up and ultimately handed Armstrong a lifetime ban.
Howman also discussed the role of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, pointing out that it is increasingly bogged down in delays.
“When sport decided they should have a sport-based tribunal, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, it was based on three clear principles: easy access for the athletes, non-expensive access for the athletes … and timely justice,” he said.
“Now we’re involved in hearings before CAS which might take a couple of years, and none of the three principles are being followed. It’s costing more.
“We need to look at how we can change things.”
He has said that the current issues relating to the deep corruption in FIFA, soccer’s governing body, showed that a serious consideration needed to be given to the establishment of a new international body looking at all issues relating to integrity in sport.
“How big a disaster do you need to start reflecting on the issue of governance? How big a disaster do you need to look at issues of integrity and what’s going on?” he said.
“How can you change that? Don’t we need an independent body to oversee the governance of sport? To ensure that issues of bribery, corruption and all the other challenges to integrity can be pursued.
“If you don’t [agree], try to convince me why you don’t.”
One example of long delays at CAS are Johan Bruyneel’s appeal against the ten year ban handed down to him by USADA. He was due to have a hearing on March 2 yet, seven months later, there is still no announced outcome.
Other cases such as the Alberto Contador Clenbuterol issue also incurred lengthy delays before the court.