Track and field’s governing body will re-introduce four-year bans for serious drug violations in 2015 and will be pushing the World Anti-Doping Agency to do the same to strengthen the deterrent against cheats, IAAF President Lamine Diack said Thursday.
In a vote by acclamation at the IAAF congress, member federations backed the leaders in seeking tougher WADA sanctions. The International Association of Athletics Federations said it is ready to press ahead on its own if other sports refuse to upgrade the sanction from two years.
The new WADA code goes into effect in 2015. Diack said the IAAF will move to four-year sanctions regardless of what is decided at the Nov. 12-15 World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg.
"Up to 2015 it will still be two years," Diack said. "From then on, as far as the IAAF is concerned, it will be four years."
IAAF officials have always stressed they were ready to impose four-year sanctions and only grudgingly adapted to the two-year penalties in 1997. They fear new steps next November will again fall short in effectively deterring athletes.
"If WADA is only following some federations, who have their doubts, we have to take care of our own fate," IAAF Council member Helmut Digel told The Associated Press.
WADA wants a uniform standard across all sports and countries.
Athletics officials fear that the goal of four-year bans will be watered down in negotiations leading up to the Johannesburg meeting, leaving so many exceptions and caveats that it would hardly make a difference from the current system of two years.
"The four-year ban is not a slam dunk," said Abby Hoffman, the IAAF’s anti-doping task force coordinator. "We need to be sure that space is carved in in the anti-doping campaign for athletics to impose the ban that we know our athletes and our members want."
The issue has gained prominence ahead of the world championships, which start Saturday in Moscow. Several high-profile doping scandals have clouded the preparations for the event.
Doping has hit the sport’s premier event, the men’s 100 meters, especially hard. U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay had been expected to challenge Jamaica’s Usain Bolt for the title after a strong early season but was forced to pull out of the worlds when he failed an out-of-competition test.
Almost at the same time, it was announced that former world-record holder Asafa Powell tested positive for the stimulant oxilofrone at the Jamaican national championships in June.
Digel said the sport is doing all it can to eradicate doping, even at the expense of a public relations setback.
"Tyson Gay? We are not protecting him," Digel said. "Asafa Powell? We are not protecting him. These are our superstars. We want to help our clean athletes."
On Friday, the International Olympic Committee executive board will announce its choice for the next WADA president. It is the turn of the Olympic movement to select the president, who will replace former Australian minister John Fahey.
IOC vice president Craig Reedie of Britain, who sits on the WADA executive committee, is the firm favorite. The other candidates are former two-time Olympic 400-meter hurdles champion Edwin Moses of the United States and former IOC medical director Patrick Schamasch.
The candidate put forward Friday will go up for formal approval at the WADA meeting in Johannesburg and take over as president on Jan. 1.