Thursday, October 20, 2005 - Doping
Italy trying to stand firm on jail time for doping at Olympics

- By: Duncan Mackay - The Guardian

Italian government officials are refusing to compromise on the country's tough anti-doping laws during the Winter Olympics in Turin next year. Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, and Dick Pound, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, are calling for criminal sanctions for a doping offence, including up to three years in prison, to be relaxed during the 17 days of the games, which open on February 10.

"The Olympic rules and the Wada code never contemplated having doped athletes locked up," said Pound. "Just get them out of sport." Mario Pescante, Italy's sports minister and an IOC member, has proposed a moratorium on the law during the Olympics amid fears some competitors will not travel to take part if they fear facing prosecution.

"You think American professional hockey players, paid in the millions, will risk being put in handcuffs to come play in Turin? Come on. Let's be realistic," Pescante said. Italian legislators are reluctant to make any change.

The deputy premier and foreign minister Gianfranco Fini said he is against suspending the law. "I believe that one of the principles of sports is fairness," he said. "An athlete who uses banned substances comes under this principle, and therefore I would not support measures to render our legislation weaker for people who use [banned] substances."

French authorities have remanded the European marathon record holder Benoît Zwierzchiewski in custody after illegal substances were allegedly found at his home in Marseille. Zwierzchiewski, 29, equalled the European marathon record in 2003 with a time of 2hr 6min 36sec.

The United Nations has joined the fight against doping in sports with unanimous adoption by its 191 member states of the international convention against doping in sport to test and penalise athletes.

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