Four-year bans for most of the anti-doping rule violations, with several concessions for inadvertent infringements, and a separate provision for ‘contaminated products’, are the highlights of the revised draft anti-doping code published by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday.

Second revision

This is the second revision of the draft for the 2015 Code in the ongoing process with the final consultation phase ending in March next year. The final draft would come up for approval in November, 2013.

As indicated in a brief announcement that the WADA made last month about the key features of the revised draft, four-year sanctions for more serious offences is the most important amendment that is being brought in.

Violations involving prohibited method or a prohibited substance in the class of anabolic agents, peptide hormones, growth hormones, growth factors and related substances, hormone and metabolic modulators, or diuretics and other masking agents would result in four-year suspensions unless the athlete can establish that the “commission of the anti-doping rule violation was neither intentional nor reckless.”

Conversely, if the anti-doping authority can prove that the violation was intentional or reckless, outside the above list and in cases of ‘specified substances’ even, an athlete could be banned for four years. Admitting an anti-doping rule violation may attract bans ranging from two to four years with the approval of WADA.

In other cases for classes of substances other than those listed in the more serious batch and outside of ‘specified substances’ the punishment could be two years.

For ‘specified substances’ that are considered to be prone to inadvertent use, the sanction, as in the past, will range from a mere reprimand to two years suspension.

A little more clarity has been brought into the clause dealing with ‘contaminated products’, but it is still unclear why such a new rule is being introduced when ‘contamination’ can be dealt with under the no ‘significant fault or negligence’ clause.

The ‘contaminated products’ rule (10.4.2) will allow athletes to get sanctions ranging from ‘reprimand’ to two years suspension if it could be proved that there was no significant fault or negligence on the part of the athletes while establishing that the banned substance came from a contaminated supplement.

The case of the six Indian woman 400m runners, who were suspended for two years following an appeal by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in July last comes into focus here.

Had this rule been available, they could have been given a ‘reprimand’ by the National appeal panel, which had upheld the decision of the hearing panel last March but had noted that they deserved to be let off though rules did not provide for that level of leniency.

The WADA has, for the first time, given itself some in-competition testing authority, though it has been clarified that it would be taking over the testing role only in “special circumstances”.

Extra teeth

This, coupled with the WADA’s newly-suggested right to “initiate its own investigations” provide the agency extra teeth to pursue cases like that of US cyclist Lance Armstrong in case it was found that there was some slackness on the part of a particular anti-doping authority.

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