Coe rejects idea of shorter bans for recreational drug abuse

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The Independent Online

Sebastian Coe has vehemently rejected calls for athletes who are caught taking recreational drugs to face the possibility of lesser bans than those who take performance-enhancing substances. Coe, who is a vice-president of the IAAF, the athletics governing body, said yesterday that such moves display the "morality of the knackers' yard".

Athletes who fail drugs tests currently face an automatic two-year ban, but a senior member of UK Anti-Doping has suggested that there should be a difference drawn between drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and some medications, like asthma inhalers, and those that competitors take to boost performance. It is a view that was yesterday supported by Steve Cram.

But Coe, who may run for the presidency of the IAAF once his current role as chairman of the London Olympics organising committee is complete, believes there should still be a universal ban, and that it should, in fact, be doubled.

He said: "Let's get real here. What is the message we are putting out to young people? It's very clear. There is no ambiguity. You want to be a part of this project then don't take drugs. You can't mix messages.

"If I'm ever in a position in track and field we will move that [ban] to four years," Coe added. "It's about trust. If you say, well, we might take a view on ecstasy or cocaine it's the morality of the knackers' yard. You have got to fight this and you have got to be clear and strong."

Michael Stow, head of science and medicine at UKAD, has suggested there should be more flexibility and the list of prohibited substances not to be a "question of moral and ethics".

Cram said: "Recreational drugs are not the same as someone who has systematically tried to cheat to win. So an automatic two-year ban might not be right for that offence."