August 6, 2006

IAAF chief calls for four-year doping bans

By Patrick Vignal

GOTHENBURG, Sweden (Reuters) - The president of the
International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has
called for four-year bans for athletes testing positive for
some substances such as steroids.

"We want to move toward four-year bans," Lamine Diack told
reporters on Sunday in Gothenburg, where the European athletics
championships start on Monday.

"We cannot accept any doubts about the performances of our
athletes," he added.

Diack's proposal came a few days after the news that
Olympic and world 100 meters champion Justin Gatlin had tested
positive for testosterone, dealing a serious blow to the
showcase Olympic sport.

Under the current rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency
(WADA), athletes face a two-year suspension for a first doping
offence and a life ban in case of a second.

The four-year bans would apply for positive tests for only
some performance-enhancing drugs including steroids and
erythropoietin (EPO), Diack said.

The four-year ban proposal would be on the agenda of the
ruling body's next congress in August 2007 in Osaka, Japan, he

Diack said he would try to convince other federations to
follow suit and hoped WADA would promote four-year bans at its
next congress scheduled for November 2007.

The IAAF used to inflict four-year bans for steroid
offences but dropped the sanction to two years in 1997 after
courts in some countries refused to uphold the longer penalty.


"We know there could be some difficult situations but
that's the way we want to go," Diack said when asked whether
the reinstatement of four-year bans could result in more legal
battles for IAAF.

Gatlin, joint world 100 meters record holder with Jamaican
Asafa Powell, will attend a hearing before the U.S. Anti-Doping
Agency (USADA) in the near future.

The 24-year-old American has denied ever knowingly using a
banned substance or authorizing anyone else to administer one
to him.

"This is a disaster for our sport," Diack said of Gatlin's
positive test. "I was convinced he was a great champion and he
actually played an important role in USADA's campaign against

"This is bad publicity. At last year's world championships
we believed a new generation was coming up and we were moving
out of all this. Sadly, it is not the case."

More than half a dozen athletes currently or previously
coached by Gatlin's coach, Trevor Graham, including disgraced
former 100 meters world record-holder Tim Montgomery, have been
suspended for doping.

"It is disturbing that so many of Trevor Graham's athletes
have tested positive," Diack said.

The IAAF president, however, ruled out immediate sanctions
from the ruling body against the coach, who has been banned by
the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) from using their training
centers and facilities.

"This is a difficult situation but we must face it," Diack
said of the turbulent climate created by the Gatlin case.

"Our society is such that there will always be cheats but
they must know that we will do everything in our power to get
rid of them."