WADA Code revamp

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The World Anti-Doping Agency has published feedback from a number of international sporting bodies on its anti-doping code, which it describes as a "living document". There are quite a few changes proposed, and it looks like we'll see a new version of the code following the Third World Conference on Doping in Sport in Madrid, Spain, between November 15-17, 2007.

This article in The Australian details the major changes that have been proposed. The biggest is the relaxation of the "strict liability" rule, whereby athletes are solely responsible for what is found in their bodies. Currently, if they accidentally ingest a doping substance (contaminated supplement or cough medicine have been common claims by athletes) and are caught, then they can be banned for up to two years - the same as if they'd deliberately done it. The new version of the code will reduce the penalties for "accidental doping", provided that the athlete can prove that it was accidental and that it was not for a strong drug or method (e.g. hormones, steroids, blood doping).

On the flip-side, it's been proposed that the maximum two year ban for a first offence be extended to four years where there are serious drugs involved. And if an athlete misses a test, then the minimum ban will be extended from three months to one year.

In future, doping cases could be decided on evidence outside a simple positive test. Operación Puerto, the BALCO affair and the Museeuw/Landuyt case are all examples of this.

The feedback also questioned whether high ranking anti-doping officials should be allowed to comment on cases before they have been decided. No-one mentioned WADA boss Dick Pound, but it was fairly obvious that he was being referred to. Doping cases aren't decided by a public jury , so Pound is within his rights to comment. But besides giving journalists plenty of material to work with, is he helping or hurting the anti-doping cause?

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