By Duncan Mackay

World Anti Doping Code bookNovember 18 - The controversial "Osaka Rule", which banned athletes convicted of serious doping offences from competing in the next Olympic Games, has been dropped from the latest draft World Anti-Doping Code in favour of doubling the length of bans from two to four years, it was announced today. 

The ban for serious offences, including anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, masking agents, trafficking and prohibited methods, is to be increased from two years to four, said the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) following its Foundation Board meeting in Montreal.

It means that Rule 45 - or the Osaka Rule -  of the Olympic Charter has not been included in the draft version of the Code, which is due to be approved in autumn 2013 at a meeting in Johannesburg and implemented in 2015.

It had been part of the Olympic Charter until last year when it was ruled non-compliant with the Code.

It had been originally drafted to allow the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to prevent athletes who had received a doping sanction of more than six months from competing in the next Olympic Games.

Rule 45 had been introduced by the IOC in 2007 during the World Athletics Championships in Osaka - hence the name - but was challenged last year by the United States Olympic Committee on behalf of Beijing 2008 400 metres champion LaShawn Merritt.

He had been banned in October 2010 for 21 months after testing positive for a banned a substance contained in an over-the-counter penis enlargement product.

The USOC successfully argued at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that it was unfair because it was a second punishment for the same offence.

That, in turn, led to WADA successfully overturning the British Olympic Association's (BOA) bylaw which banned any athlete convicted of a serious doping offence representing Team GB at the Olympics, leaving the way clear for convicted drugs cheats Dwain Chambers, Carl Myerscough and David Millar to compete at London 2012.

Dwain Chambers running at London 2012 August 5 2012Convicted drugs cheat Dwain Chambers was able to run for TeamGB at London 2012 partly as a result the Osaka Rule being thrown out by the Court of Arbitration for Sport

At the time of its judgement in the Merritt case, CAS had indicated that Rule 45 could be reintroduced if it was included as part of the WADA code.

A new clause in the World Anti-Doping Code published in June, 10.15, titled "Limitation on Participation in the Olympic Games'' said in serious doping cases "as an additional sanction, the athlete or other person shall be ineligible to participate in the next Summer Olympic Games and the next Winter Olympic Games taking place after the end of the period of ineligibility otherwise imposed."

That has now been removed amid fears that such a rule could again be challenged legally.

John Fahey Paris November 12 2012WADA President John Fahey claims that doubling the length of the drugs ban from two to four years sends a "message loud and clear" that drugs cheats will be punished

"It is clear from the number of submissions we received, that there is a strong desire in the world of sport, from Governments and within the anti-doping community to strengthen the sanction articles in the Code," said WADA President John Fahey.

"This second draft has done that, doubling the length of suspension for serious offenders and widening the scope for anti-doping organisations to impose lifetime bans."

But previously when the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had a four-year ban it was successfully challenged in the courts under European law as being too harsh.

The most high-profile case involved the German sprinter Katrin Krabbe,the 1991 world 100 and 200 metres champion, who was suspended for four years for taking the banned drug clenbuterol in 1992, but successfully sued the IAAF in a Munich Civil Court.

They found her penalty unlawful, effectively restricting the German Athletics Federation to two-year bans for drug use.

Krabbe's move, and other successful legal challenges in other European countries, forced the IAAF to drop four-year bans, and to avoid potentially huge legal bills.

Katrin Krabbe in Tokyo 1991Katrin Krabbe, seen here in white, winning the 100m World Championships at Tokyo in 1991 was one of several athletes who successfully challenged four-year bans

Fahey, though, is confident that it will work this time.

"The Code review is intended to increase the effectiveness of anti-doping, and athletes must know that there is a heavy price to pay for intentional doping, that the risks are high," he said.

"I am confident this draft will deliver that message loud and clear, and that our own stakeholders will agree."

There is one last chance to get Rule 45 reintroduced when the third and final consultation phase of the Code Review Process begins on December 3 and runs through until March 1, 2013.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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