News 17 December 2015

UK government to consider criminalisation of doping

The UK government’s Minister for Sport, Tracey Crouch, has said that the government will consider whether to criminalise doping as part of its Sporting Future strategy on sport, unveiled by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) today. “We have to look at criminalisation to see whether or not that’s something we can add to the toolbox of combatting corruption in sport”, Crouch told Sky Sports News.

Although criminalisation of doping is not proposed in the Sporting Future strategy, a spokesperson confirmed that it would be considered as part of it, but that no timeframe has been put in place. “As we have said in the past, it would be remiss of us not to consider legislation an option”, they said. It is understood that the DCMS will take guidance from UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), UK Sport, WADA and other experts on the feasibility of legislation, as well as examining criminalisation of doping in other countries, such as Italy and Germany. If criminalisation were to penalise athletes, such a move would go against the advice of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

‘The Agency believes that the sanction process for athletes, which includes a right of appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), is a settled process, accepted by all governments of the world, and further that the sanctions for a doping violation by an athlete, which now includes a longer, four-year period of ineligibility, have been globally accepted by sport and government’, read a 26 October WADA statement. ‘As such, the Agency does not believe that doping should be made a criminal offence for athletes’.

Despite this warning, Germany has recently followed Italy by criminalising doping, after the federal council (Bundesrat) approved Parliament’s (Bundestag) adoption of the Anti-Doping Act on 27 November. ‘In the future, self-doing will be a criminal offence’, read a Bundesrat statement. ‘For the first time, professional athletes who dope to gain an advantage in professional sport are specifically captured […] the new anti-doping law helps law enforcement agencies to dismantle doping networks.’ Ireland is also considering criminalisation of doping.

The strategy also commits to increasing UK Anti-Doping’s (UKAD) funding in line with inflation, a move that was welcomed today by UKAD. ‘Over the coming months, government will update its National Anti-Doping Policy to ensure it is consistent with the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code’, reads the strategy. ‘Government will work with UKAD to widen its education work and ensure a strong anti-doping message is promoted at all levels of sport from school and grassroots sport through every tier of competitive sport right up to the elite level’.

Mandatory governance code

The Sporting Future strategy plan to establish a mandatory governance code for sport, giving a nod to recent corruption scandals that have plagued FIFA and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) during the past year. ‘Sport can be hugely undermined by poor governance and corruption, so we will establish a new, mandatory governance code that will be rigorously enforced at home and set a new standard internationally’, it reads. ‘It will help us to tackle doping, match-fixing and corruption wherever they occur in sport’.

The code will be mandatory for all sports bodies that want to receive public funding from 2017. It will be based on the Financial Reporting Council’s (FRC) Corporate Governance Code, and will be drawn up by UK Sport, Sport England and other home nation sports councils by September 2016. ‘This Governance Code will build on and strengthen existing commitments, including the requirement for all sports’ boards to have at least 25% female representation by 2017’, reads the strategy.

Integrity issues

‘We will stand up for the integrity of the sports we love’, reads the introduction to the Sporting Futures strategy, written by UK Prime Minister David Cameron. ‘We should be proud of the role that British journalists have played in lifting the veil on corruption and poor governance at the heart of some of the biggest international sports’.

As such, the government commits to signing and ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on the manipulation of sports competitions. ‘In doing so [we] will review the effectiveness of the UK’s existing legislative framework’, reads the strategy.

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