ASADA penalties not the answer to deal with drug cheats

RATHER than giving the Australian Sports Anti-doping Authority more powers, drug dealers, and not innocent athletes, should be targeted under reforms to crime laws, a Senate inquiry heard on Friday.

The inquiry is examining an Abbott government bill, endorsed by the Australian Olympic Committee and other sporting bodies, to boost ASADA's penalties on drug cheats to deter players in all codes from using banned substances.

The reforms would also update the Australian authority's roles to meet the international World Anti-Doping Authority's regulations, but was criticised by athlete representatives and key sporting law experts from Victoria.

Commercial Bar Association of Victoria chairman Tony Nolan QC told the inquiry that despite fears of widespread doping arising from the "blackest day in sport", ASADA's own figures showed less than 1% of athletes tested in recent years were found positive for drugs, and several of the positive results were for cannabis.

"Either there is not actually much drugs in sport, or they have been totally incompetent in catching cheats," Mr Nolan said.

He said while lawyers strongly supported some of the reforms, "if the object is to curtail the influence of a person with a history of doping", changes should instead be made to the Crimes Act to make supplying performance enhancing substances a crime.

The committee is expected to report its findings on the bill to parliament by the end of this month.

-APN NEWSDESK



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