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Tougher bans for doping cheats approved by WADA

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GERALD IMRAY | November 15, 2013 05:20 AM EST | AP

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Serious doping cheats will be banned for four years from 2015, ensuring they miss at least one Olympics.

The doubling of bans from two years to four was one of the proposals adopted by the World Anti-Doping Agency and added to the World Anti-Doping Code on Friday, the final day of the World Conference on Doping in Sport.

Also added to the revised code were stronger powers for anti-doping authorities to punish coaches and trainers who help athletes dope, and more emphasis on investigations away from drug tests to catch cheats. The code will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, in time for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Another key change to international anti-doping rules is WADA's ability to tell sports which illegal substances they should be testing for.

"The executive committee unanimously endorsed and agreed to approve the code and the standards," WADA President John Fahey told delegates.

The move to four-year bans as standard for intentional doping was seen as the most obvious deterrent, although there are still provisions in the new code for "flexibility" if an athlete takes a banned substance unintentionally or an athlete tests positive for a social drug like marijuana.

While the tougher four-year bans had widespread approval, the focus on intelligence gathering and investigations away from testing of urine and blood samples may be a more important new tool.

Many of the most significant recent breakthroughs to catch high-profile dopers — including disgraced American cyclist Lance Armstrong, the BALCO scandal in the United States and Spain's Operation Puerto — have come through investigations and not analytical tests.

Armstrong was banned for life in 2012 and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after an extensive investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. Armstrong was implicated and punished despite never failing a doping test.

WADA said Friday it was "emphasizing the need to encourage more investigations into doping practices as a complement to efficient testing programs."

WADA also strengthened its powers to punish "athlete support personnel," the trainers, coaches and officials that assist in doping. Previously, coaches and officials were not subject to the same anti-doping rules as athletes.

The amendment concerning "smart menus" allows WADA to tell sports federations to test for substances "most likely to be abused" by athletes in their sports.

WADA has been working on the changes to its international anti-doping rules — which will be the first update since 2009 — in a two-year process involving athletes, sports federations, anti-doping bodies and governments. There were more than 2,000 proposed clause changes for the new code, 145 meetings with stakeholders and 18 code drafting sessions, WADA said.

WADA also will elect a new leader on Friday to succeed Fahey. Britain's Craig Reedie, an IOC vice president, is the only candidate to take over as president.

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Follow Gerald Imray at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP