The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has approved the reintroduction of four-year doping bans for athletes despite the risk of alienating itself from the world anti-doping authority (WADA), officials said.
A vote by the IAAF on Thursday returned to four-year bans for first offenders, prompted by a string in recent high-profile doping cases including American Tyson Gay and Jamaican Asafa Powell. Turkey also announced a shocking 31 positive tests among its athletes, on the heels of several others earlier in the year. World championships host Russia meanwhile has more than 40 athletes currently servicing doping suspensions.
“Unfortunately, legally, there can’t be lifetime bans but this is a step in the right direction,” marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe said ahead of the decision.
The IAAF cut the length of doping bans from four to two years in 1997 to match the going suspension length for other international sports bodies. It’s now asking WADA to increase the doping ban across other sports to match the decision, but the IAAF insists it will go ahead regardless for track and field athletes.
“As a leader in this fight, the IAAF has built and delivers a program that is well resourced, far reaching, sophisticated and increasingly able to detect and remove from the sport those who breach our anti-doping rules,” the IAAF said in a statement.
“We will continue to fight,” said IAAF vice-president Sergey Bubka, a six-time world champion pole vaulter. “We understand it is tough but we are getting stronger and we will continue to do our best.”
London 2012 chairman and double Olympic champion Sebastian Coe had also called for the four-year ban, telling BBC Radio 5, “We have to go back from two years to four years. The move down to two did a lot of damage to my sport.”