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Tough new code to double penalty for drug cheats

By Mark Gleeson

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Drug cheats face a doubling of their bans for first offences to four years under a strict new code to be agreed at the World Conference on Doping in Sport in South Africa next week.

Tougher sanctions, more vigorous testing and a drive to catch the cheats and those who aid them, is due to be ratified by stakeholders, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), sports federations and national doping organizations.

Besides doubling the standard ban, the new code will also exclude offenders from the following Olympic Games.

"The athletes have demanded a tougher approach to cheats and instead of the current two-year ban, the penalty will be doubled for first offenders," said World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president John Fahey at the IOC's annual meeting in Buenos Aires two months ago.

There will also be new testing procedures, including seeking to catch cheats by using police-style investigations and intelligence gathering.

Emphasis will also be placed on not only the caught athletes but the entourage around them, like coaches, trainers and sports scientists.

Sporting codes will now be compelled to create fit-for- purpose testing programs, targeting the substances believed to be most prevalent in cheating in that particular sport.

WADA will also assist with the introduction of a new steroid passport for athletes which, along with the current biological passport, will monitor long term changes in their systems.

WADA, which is meeting from Tuesday to Friday, will also elect Craig Reedie, the IOC vice-president from Britain, as its new leader to succeed Australian Fahey.

Reedie, 72, a former chairman of the British Olympic Association, is the only candidate for the three-year term from the start of next year.

The conference in Johannesburg is given added credence by the presence of new IOC president Thomas Bach, a strong proponent of zero tolerance towards doping.

It is the fourth such world conference and comes as the culmination of two years of consultation and draft revisions.

At least 2 000 changes have been made to the code, Fahey said. It will come into effect at the start of 2015 after its planned ratification by WADA's board at the end of the conference on Friday.

(Editing by Tony Goodson)

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