Tuesday, November 1, 2005 - Doping
Athletes Win!! - I.O.C. Stops Fighting Doping Laws in Turin

- By: Nathaniel Vinton - New York Times

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Oct. 28 - The International Olympic Committee has conceded defeat in its effort to persuade the Italian government to impose a moratorium on a stringent law against doping during the Turin Games, which begin Feb. 10.

"It is clear indeed that there will be no amendments on the law," Jacques Rogge, the I.O.C. president, said Friday at the conclusion of this week's executive board meetings.

Now the I.O.C. will begin planning for the possibility of athletes or coaches being arrested during the Games. "We feel confident that a working solution will be found," Rogge said.

The I.O.C. wanted the Italian government to impose a moratorium on the antidoping law during the Games, allowing the I.O.C. to prosecute doping offenses according to its guidelines, which parallel the World Antidoping Code.

"Members of Parliament consider this moratorium a sign of weakness," said Mario Pescante, the I.O.C.'s Games supervisor for Turin.

Pescante, who is also under secretary of sport in Italy, went out on a political limb in his home country by leading the moratorium effort, which he said had little public support. Several prominent politicians, as well as the head of Italy's national Olympic committee, have reiterated their support for the law.

"I was very isolated," Pescante said on Friday.

The dispute between the I.O.C. and the Italian government has forced Olympic officials into the awkward stance of arguing against a tough antidoping law. The law imposes prison sentences on those caught using, supplying or administering banned substances.

"We believe that those who cheat should be penalized according to the appropriate sporting sanctions," Rogge said. "It is a question of sporting ethics rather than a question of crime and criminality."

Rogge disputed critics who said the I.O.C. was taking a soft stance on doping. He said that the I.O.C. would conduct 1,200 tests in Turin, a 45 percent increase from the Salt Lake Games in 2002. But Rogge has also said that he is concerned that Italy's stringent law could disrupt the Games in ways that harm the athletes.

"That system could be abused," said Richard W. Pound, an I.O.C. member and the chairman of the World Antidoping Agency. Pound raised the possibility of athletes' quarters being ransacked by police based on anonymous calls from people whose intent was to harm those athletes' performances.

Ottavio Cinquanta, the only Italian member of the I.O.C.'s executive board, predicted that Italy's prosecutors would show restraint. "The judges are normally responsible people," said Cinquanta, who is also president of the International Skating Union.

Asked if Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, could help persuade the country's judges to tread delicately in February, Cinquanta said that it was difficult to pressure a judge.

One judge in particular, Raffaele Guariniello, has gained a reputation for his hard-nosed investigation of widespread doping in Italian soccer. Guariniello is based in Turin.

Since the enactment of the antidoping law in 2000, Italian authorities have become known for their tough stance on doping. A noteworthy example was a 2001 police raid on hotels of cycling teams competing in Italy's national road race, the Giro d'Italia. The raid turned up banned substances and led to a number of trials.

Over the last decade, international sports have tried to establish their own arbitration system designed to prosecute doping violations more expeditiously and consistently than criminal courts do.

Sport federation chiefs and others in the Olympic movement have said that such a system is crucial in the Olympics, where the I.O.C.'s antidoping rules will take effect as soon as the Olympic Villages are opened.

Pound says that the supremacy of these rules was something that Turin promised when it signed the host-city contract with the I.O.C. in 1999.

"Italy made its promises to the I.O.C.," Pound said, "so they have not delivered on what they promised."

Source: New York Times

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