MADRID (AP) — Spain's government on Friday approved tougher anti-doping laws to come into line with World Anti-Doping Agency standards and bolster Madrid's bid for the 2020 Olympics.
Sport Minister Jose Ignacio Wert said that, once the bill is passed by parliament, "the impression that (Spain) lacks toughness on doping will disappear." The bill includes the expansion of doping tests for athletes to night hours (11 p.m. to 6 a.m.), costly fines for those who deal in banned doping substances, and creates a new national anti-doping agency with greater powers than the current one and with an additional focus on sports health.
The director of Spain's current Anti-Doping Agency, Ana Munoz, will remain in charge of the new agency, which will take the name of Spain's Sports Health Protection Agency. "The fact that Spanish legislation fully meets the criteria of the World Anti-Doping Agency's code situates Spain at the forefront of the countries in our region in the realm of protecting the health of athletes and the anti-doping fight," Munoz said.
Miguel Cardenal, the president of Spain's Sports Council, said that the new fines of up to €400,000 ($520,000) established by the law were not meant for athletes who dope, but rather for those who sell or supply banned substances.
"The doping trade is a criminal activity that can generate significant profits," Cardenal told Europa Press news agency. "That's why the fines are so high, but they are not for athletes, who can at most be suspended."
Nor will the harsher punishments include jail time for doping cheats. Spain's first anti-doping law was passed in 2006. The previous lack of doping legislation has continued to harm Spain's image on doping and hampered police investigations like Operation Puerto, the blood-doping case which is currently the subject of a trial in Madrid.
Wert said the government will push for a quick legislative passage of the bill and he expects it to be passed and in effect "by June or July." The new law comes at a key stage in Madrid's bid for the Olympics. The IOC evaluation commission will visit Madrid on Mar. 18-21 to assess the bid, including anti-doping measures.
Madrid, trying for the games for a third straight time, is competing against Tokyo and Istanbul. The IOC will select the 2020 host city in September. "Madrid's prior bids were questioned by some sectors because of Spain's anti-doping legislation," Wert said. "This law bolsters its bid. ... The new law wasn't passed because the committee is coming in 10 days, but if it helps the bid then that is positive."
Wert said the law will make the revamped anti-doping agency independent from the government's Sports Council, granting it full jurisdiction over doping testing and suspensions for athletes found to have used banned substances or practices.
Among measures directed at sports health, the new law will oblige sports facilities to be equipped to deal with emergencies related to heart and breathing problems.