‘Sanctions are not too harsh’

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chief Dick Pound has rejected criticism that sanctions against athletes who contravene doping regulations are too harsh. Speaking at an anti-doping symposium in Athens last Friday, Pound told Reuters the current system was a good one. «It’s a transparent system that provides every opportunity for independent determination of these things and access to independent arbitration panels,» he said. Pound was responding to suggestions made last month by Gregory Ioannidis, the lawyer of controversial Greek sprinters Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, that «the strict liability rules are arbitrary and capricious.» «With all the respect that a member of my profession deserves, that is absolute nonsense,» he said. But Pound, who finishes his spell as WADA chief at the end of November, said the issue of penalties for doping offenses was likely to be one of the main priorities when the body meets in Madrid later this year to formulate a new code of practice. «Two years for someone who is deliberately using steroids and maybe distributing them, that’s just not enough,» he said. Pound said the penalty for missing doping tests – the issue that affected Kenteris and Thanou before the 2004 Athens Olympics – should be treated on a case-by-case basis. «You have to look at the circumstances. Is it a consistent pattern of not being where you said you were going to be? Or is that because of a family emergency you had to leave town and forgot to tell your federation? That kind of thing would enter into it.» He is not convinced, however, that the war on doping has yet been won. «When you convince 99.99 percent of the people involved – that’s athletes and their entourages – not to do it because it is wrong and it’s dangerous and when you can give them the confidence that you will catch the 0.01 percent – because there will always be some people who do it – then I would say, ‘Yes, we have won the war on doping.’ Are we there yet? No.» (Reuters)