Doping law to become weightier

State benefits for successful athletes will be trimmed in an effort to stamp out the use of illegal substances in Greek sports, the government said yesterday, as it adopted the measures suggested by a committee set up in the wake of the doping scandal involving 11 weightlifters. «With the proposals that we are going to submit, we are looking for the support of all citizens,» said Culture Minister Michalis Liapis. «We are not interested in what happened in the past; we are interested in the present and the future. Doping is a national issue. We want sport to be about values and not substances.» Liapis was flanked by Yiannis Ioannidis, his deputy minister who is in charge of sports, as they presented the proposals of the committee, which was hastily set up after news broke earlier this month that 11 members of the Greek weightlifting team had failed doping tests. Key among the suggestions is that only athletes who finish in the top three places at the Olympic Games, Paralympics, World Championships, European Championships or Mediterranean Games should receive benefits that include posts in the army or police force. Until now, athletes who finished in the top eight could expect to gain such rewards. The panel also recommended that the use of banned substances by athletes or their promotion by coaches should be classified as a felony rather than a misdemeanor. Any athlete who is simply found to be in possession of a banned substance will also face prosecution under the proposals. If a team is found to be using banned substances en masse, then the board of the relevant federation or team will also be held culpable. It has also been recommended that the powers of the Greek Anti-Doping Organization (ESKAN) be enhanced and that any checks for banned substances be conducted under its guidance and oversight. The services of the police’s electronic crimes squad will also be at the disposal of officials investigating doping cases. Ioannidis said that the measures would not be implemented until after the Beijing Olympics, which end on August 24.

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