CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Drawing hard lessons from the Lance Armstrong scandal, global anti-doping authorities are set to move into a new era with tougher sanctions, smarter testing and a different leader.
The World Anti-Doping Agency is also taking a new approach in its effort to catch drug cheats. It is pursuing investigations and gathering intelligence rather than relying on the blood and urine samples that proved unsuccessful with Armstrong, a serial doper who never failed a test.
A series of proposed changes to the World Anti-Doping Code will be voted on at the World Conference on Doping in Sport. The conference runs next week in Johannesburg. The revised code will take effect Jan. 1, 2015 — in time for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"We've got a budget of not even the salary that Wayne Rooney earns at Manchester United," WADA director general David Howman told The Associated Press. "I think what you have to do is say, 'Right, how do you make the bucks you have go as far as they possibly can to get rid of those rotten apples?'"
In the most obvious deterrent, WADA is proposing to double the standard ban for serious doping offenses from two years to four years, meaning cheaters would miss at least one Olympics. The move appears to have widespread approval. While current rules allow for four-year bans in aggravated cases, the longer sanctions are rarely enforced and most federations keep to the standard two-year penalty.
A previous IOC rule that banned dopers from the next Olympics was ruled invalid by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. WADA then consulted a judge at the Court of Human Rights to make sure the latest four-year proposal would stand up to legal challenges.
"I can't see it not being accepted to be honest," U.K. Anti-Doping chief executive Andy Parkinson said. WADA is also re-examining testing procedures, placing more importance on police-style investigations and extending the reach of anti-doping agencies to give harsher punishments to the coaches and trainers, the "athlete entourage" that assists in doping — all factors in Armstrong's case.
Armstrong was "surrounded by a lot of rotten apples," Howman said. WADA also proposes lengthening the statute of limitations in doping cases from eight to 10 years. That would allow the storage and re-testing of samples for up to a decade.
With these changes being considered, WADA will elect a new president. Craig Reedie, an International Olympic Committee vice president from Britain, is the only candidate. He is set to succeed former Australian government minister John Fahey as WADA president, taking over Jan. 1, 2014.
New IOC President Thomas Bach also will attend the conference, underlining his commitment to a "zero-tolerance" approach on doping. And away from the code, WADA and national anti-doping agencies may look to repair broken relationships with some sports.
Reedie, close to the federations, may be the right person to lead the move toward detente after previous clashes between the agency and federations, including over allegations that cycling's ruling body protected Armstrong or was complicit in his doping. Newly elected UCI President Brian Cookson will be in Johannesburg.
Delegations from Jamaica and Kenya also are expected, giving WADA an opportunity to make progress behind the scenes on anti-doping shortcomings in those countries. WADA has already inspected the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission over a breakdown in the testing of its world-beating sprinters in the run-up to the London Olympics last year. WADA's executive committee will likely examine the Jamaica report when it meets on the first day of the conference.
Kenya is being scrutinized for a sudden spike in doping offenses and the lack of progress in an investigation promised by sports and government authorities a year ago. WADA will meet with Kenyan officials in Johannesburg.
Howman praised the United States Anti-Doping Agency for a "superb job" concerning Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life. After years of denials, the cyclist admitted to doping after a USADA investigation exposed evidence of his systematic cheating.
Despite USADA's eventual success, Armstrong's career still stands as a stark reminder for authorities who couldn't catch him for years. A report commissioned by WADA and delivered this year said drug-testing had been "generally unsuccessful" in catching dopers. The findings from a team led by former WADA head Dick Pound called for the doping body to "readjust its focus."
Taking away findings for substances like marijuana and asthma medications, less than 1 percent of the 250,000 drug tests now administered at huge cost every year were producing positives, the report found, showing no improvement since 1985.
Howman said WADA had "totally" taken on board recommendations with regard to testing shortcomings. In one proposed change, the code wants to ensure that testing is smarter and federations tailor it to substances more common to their specific sport.
"We have a task to tell the sports what substances they must be testing for," Howman said.
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