Originally created 03/06/03

Sports, governments back first global drug code



COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Sports bodies and governments from around the world on Wednesday approved a global policy for unifying doping rules and punishing drug cheats.

Now comes the real test: putting the program into practice.

"The future will tell us if this wonderful day can also be rated as a pivotal day in the fight against doping," IOC president Jacques Rogge said.

After a three-day summit, 65 sports federations and 73 national governments backed a plan that establishes regulations, procedures and sanctions.

Under the code, athletes will be subject to random, out-of-competition drug testing. The policy does not affect U.S. sports leagues unless those athletes compete in international events, including the Olympics.

NBA players in the Olympics, for example, will have to undergo unannounced drug testing before the Athens Games.

Any sport or group failing to follow the rules could be excluded from the Olympics. Any country refusing to comply could be barred from hosting the games.

The code specifies an all-encompassing list of banned substances, mandates two-year suspensions for a first serious violation and life ban for a second, and sets standards for testing and appeals procedures.

World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound called the agreement a "seminal moment" in the long and often stumbling campaign against performance-enhancing drugs.

Sports bodies are required to adopt the code before next year's Athens Olympics. Governments have until the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, to enact the code in their national legislation.

"We will know by February 2006 if this conference was really a success or not," Rogge said. "It's promising but I want to see the reality."

The United States, France, Germany, Russia, Australia and Britain were among the 50 nations signing a government declaration backing the code. Twenty-three others promised to sign at a later date. No government indicated it would not sign.

Frank Shorter, chairman of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called the code a "giant step forward."

"For the first time ever, athletes from all sports and nations will be treated on an equal basis," he said.

The code upholds the Olympics' "strict liability" policy, meaning athletes are responsible for any banned substance in their body regardless of how it got there.

Athletes failing drug tests at the Olympics or other competitions will automatically be disqualified and lose any medals.

Many governments and sports federations criticized the exemption of U.S. pro leagues, which do not fall under the jurisdiction of the government or international sports bodies.

But Pound said the leagues could be brought into line gradually as the code is applied by the rest of the world.

The code allows for two-year suspensions to be reduced or waived if athletes can prove they were not at fault for a positive test. But WADA has the power to appeal any sanction it deems too lenient to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The accord comes four years after a conference in Switzerland, where governments attacked the IOC for its record on drugs.

"Before February 1999, that was the Middle Ages," Rogge said. "Between then and now was the Renaissance. Now we are beginning the modern times."