Moscow: Athletics will end 18 years of frustration in 2015, by returning to four-year bans for first-time dopers, ending the situation of Olympic athletes suspended for doping turning up to compete in the following Games.
Having been forced to cut its ban from four to two years in 1997, to be in line with other leading sports and get worldwide governments on board, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has been under increasing pressure to restore the stiffer penalty in the wake of a slew of high-profile doping cases.
On Thursday, two days before the start of the World Championships in Moscow, it announced there would be a return to four-year bans. “The new WADA (world anti-doping agency) Code, which will come into force on January 1, 2015, will reflect our firm commitment to have tougher penalties and the IAAF will return to four-year sanctions for serious doping offences,” the IAAF said in a statement following the second day of its Congress.
“The IAAF has an ethical obligation to the overwhelming majority of athletes and officials who believe in clean sport. As a leader in this fight, the IAAF has built and delivers a programme that is well resourced, far reaching, sophisticated and increasingly able to detect and remove from the sport those who breach our anti-doping rules.”
Athletics has recently been again hard-hit by a string of doping cases, ranging from high-profile athletes like American Tyson Gay and Jamaican trio Asafa Powell, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Sherone Simpson to multiple positive tests in Turkey.
Rocked by the latest developments, IAAF officials have continued to stress that they lead the way in the fight against doping and that the mass of positive tests are merely evidence of its efficiency.
“The IAAF’s collection of the blood samples of nearly 2000 athletes in Daegu (in the 2011 World Championships), as part of our commitment to the Athlete Biological Passport, was an historic achievement across all sports, and continues in Moscow,” said officials, who added that the testing programme in Moscow would be the most comprehensive in the event’s 30-year history.