Ministers back new anti-drugs agency

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The Independent Online

Sports Ministers from 24 nations yesterday issued a unified call for two-year bans across all sports for first-time doping offences and for year-round random drug testing.

Sports Ministers from 24 nations yesterday issued a unified call for two-year bans across all sports for first-time doping offences and for year-round random drug testing.

The ministers, meeting at the Drugs In Sport summit in Sydney, backed the International Olympic Committee's new anti-doping organisation, but agreed it must be transparent, accountable and have wider representation, especially from athletes.

"This summit recognises that we want gold medals to be won on the track, not in the test tube," the Australian justice minister and chair of the summit, Amanda Vanstone, said. "We want a fair go for athletes who don't take drugs."

The IOC failed in February to get sporting federations to agree on a compulsory two-year ban for serious drug offences across Olympic sports. The Sydney summit, attended by representatives from nations such as Australia, South Africa and the United States, has no power to force sporting bodies to adopt the ban.

"Governments do not want to run sport," Vanstone said, "but it is clear that we can help in delivering better outcomes through education, reduction in the supply of illicit drugs and scientific testing research."

The sports ministers agreed to support the IOC's new World Anti-Doping Agency, which was formed last week with the backing of the European Union but without the support of the United States, who feel WADA is not independent enough to tackle the problem.

"WADA can provide international leadership and co-ordination for a range of anti-doping activities," the sports ministers said in a joint statement. But they added: "For WADA to operate effectively it needs to involve athletes, all sports and governments from all regions."

The IOC vice-president, Kevan Gosper, who attended the summit, welcomed the communique and said athletes would be represented on WADA. "This I think is a most significant development in the fight against drugs in sport," Gosper said.

The ministers also called for drug testing laboratories to be accredited by an independent agency and for governments to fund testing programmes.

They said WADA should establish and maintain a list of prohibited substances and that athletes should gain prior approval to use substances for genuine therapeutic reasons.

They also called on governments to restrict imports of anabolic steroids and peptide hormones and agreed to establish a consultative committee to work with WADA.

"We can not change recent history involving drugs in sport. What we can do... is provide a pathway to restoring performance in sport," Vanstone said.

* The Austrian weightlifter Werner Hoeller has tested positive for the banned stimulant phentermine and will miss next week's World Championship in Athens, an Austrian news agency reported yesterday.

The 22-year-old Hoeller, who could face a two-year ban if his B sample is also positive, admitted to taking appetite suppressants containing the drug in order to reduce his weight from 73kg to 69kg.

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