MOSCOW (AP) — The IAAF is determined to re-introduce four-year bans for serious drug violations and will be pushing the World Anti-Doping Agency to do the same to strengthen the deterrent against cheaters.
In a vote by acclamation Thursday at the IAAF congress, member federations backed the leadership in seeking tougher WADA sanctions. The IAAF said it is ready to press ahead on its own if other sports refuse to upgrade the sanction from two years.
The congress said the new WADA code, which goes into effect in 2015, "will reflect our firm commitment to have tougher penalties and the IAAF will return to 4-year sanctions for serious doping offenses."
The new WADA code will be up for approval at the Nov. 12-15 World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg. IAAF officials have always stressed they were ready to impose four-year sanctions and only grudgingly adapted to two-year penalties. They fear new steps next November will again fall short in effectively deterring athletes.
"If WADA is only following some federations, who have their doubts, we have to take care of our own fate," IAAF Council member Helmut Digel told The Associated Press. WADA wants a uniform standard across all sports and countries.
IAAF officials fear the goal of four-year bans will be watered down in negotiations leading up to the Johannesburg meeting. "The four-year ban is not a slam dunk," said Abby Hoffman, the IAAF's anti-doping task force coordinator. "We need to be sure that space is carved in in the anti-doping campaign for athletics to impose the ban that we know our athletes and our members want."
The issue has gained prominence ahead of the world championships, which start Saturday in Moscow. Several high-profile doping scandals have clouded preparations for the event. Doping has hit the sport's premier event, the men's 100 meters, especially hard. U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay had been expected to challenge Jamaica's Usain Bolt for the title after a strong early season but was forced to pull out of the worlds when he failed an out-of-competition test.
Almost at the same time, it was announced that former world-record holder Asafa Powell tested positive for the stimulant oxilofrone at the Jamaican national championships in June. Digel said the sport is doing all it can to eradicate doping, even at the expense of a public relations setback.
"Tyson Gay? We are not protecting him," Digel said. "Asafa Powell? We are not protecting him. These are our superstars. We want to help our clean athletes." On Friday, the International Olympic Committee executive board will announce its choice for the next WADA president. It is the turn of the Olympic movement to select the president, who will replace former Australian minister John Fahey.
IOC vice president Craig Reedie of Britain, who sits on the WADA executive committee, is the favorite. The other candidates are former two-time Olympic 400-meter hurdles champion Edwin Moses of the United States and former IOC medical director Patrick Schamasch of France.
The candidate selected Friday will go up for formal approval at the WADA meeting in Johannesburg and take over as president on Jan. 1.