JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Drug cheats will be kept from at least one Olympics now that the ban for a first offense has been doubled from two years to four, the key change in the global fight against doping in sports.
The World Anti-Doping Agency also passed a rule Friday that offered athletes possible immunity from punishment in return for "substantial" information on doping, giving cyclists an incentive to testify in a planned inquiry into their sport's drug-stained past.
"I guess it's founded on the question: If you can bring about a greater good with the cooperation you give, then there ought to be some encouragement for you," outgoing World Anti-Doping Agency President John Fahey said.
The doubling of bans was one of the proposals adopted by WADA and added to the World Anti-Doping Code on the final day of the World Conference on Doping in Sport. WADA also unanimously elected IOC Vice President Craig Reedie of Britain as the next president, starting Jan. 1. He was the only candidate. Makhenkesi Stofile of South Africa will be the new vice president.
"I certainly hope that the higher sanctions become a much more regular fact of life," Reedie said, immediately endorsing the tougher bans.
The code will take effect Jan. 1, 2015, in time for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. It will ensure that athletes found guilty of intentional doping miss the next games, a position strongly backed by the International Olympic Committee.
"The new measures are an excellent step forward and the IOC welcomes any improvement in the fight against doping," IOC President Thomas Bach said. "It is a much-improved code but it alone is not enough." Bach urged more research and technological developments.
The move to four-year bans — seen as the most obvious new deterrent — was joined by a clause that will allow athletes to escape any sanction if their information on doping is valuable enough. It can be used in the cycling inquiry, planned for next year, on a legal principle that it is a rule about to take effect.
Fahey said it would be judged on a case-by-case basis and "dealt with in the most conscientious way." The principle will apply only to current cyclists, not banned American rider Lance Armstrong.
Also added to the revised code were stronger powers for anti-doping authorities to punish coaches who help athletes dope, and more emphasis on investigations away from drug tests to catch cheats. Another key change is WADA's ability to tell sports which substances they should be testing for.
"This is a good day for sport," Fahey said. "We must turn those words, those intentions, into action."
The new rules come with ongoing criticism that WADA, with a relatively small budget, hasn't been effective in catching cheats. It said in its own report this year that drug testing had been generally unsuccessful and that Armstrong, a serial doper, never failed a test.