Tougher anti-doping code would take effect in 2009

MADRID, Spain -- The World Anti-Doping Agency
on Friday presented its revised anti-doping code aimed at harshly punishing offenders but also offering leniency for
accidental drug-taking.

The code, which will officially be adopted on Saturday on
the final day of the world conference on doping in sport, will
come into force on Jan. 1, 2009, to allow stakeholders time to
amend their own rules.

The presentation came only hours after U.S. baseball
home-run leader Barry Bonds was ordered to stand trial on
charges of lying to federal investigators about drug-taking, in
yet another major doping scandal to hit professional sports this

"The revised version is a marked improvement, " said British
Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe, whose country will be the first
to apply the new code during a summer Olympic Games in London in

Sutcliffe warned that the code's success depended largely on
its global enforcement.

"The code is an invaluable tool if it is used and applied
equally around the world," he said. "Problems begin when it is
not applied with equal vigor around the world."

The code provides tougher bans for first-time offenders,
doubling suspensions from two to four years, depending on the

Aggravating circumstances include being part of a large
doping scheme, taking drugs for a long period of time or
systematically taking a cocktail of banned substances.

It also offers reduced bans for athletes offering
information on drugs in the form of plea bargains.

The maximum reduction in such cases, though, would not
exceed three-quarters of the ban, WADA said.

More leniency is given to athletes who have taken a banned
substance without intent to enhance their sporting performance,
who could avoid sanctions altogether.

"We as clean athletes are appalled and affected by doping,"
former Olympic cycling champion Sarah Ulmer from New Zealand
told the conference. "We have to compete with cheats."

Spanish Secretary of State for Sport Jaime Lissavetzky
welcomed the revised document's flexibility in terms of

Spain introduced wide-ranging new doping measures a year ago
after the Operation Puerto doping scandal.

The Operation Puerto investigation was launched after raids
on addresses in Madrid and Zaragoza in May 2006 in which police
found large quantities of anabolic steroids, equipment for blood
transfusions and more than 200 bags of code-named blood, some of
which were linked to leading cyclists.