World champion rower Kim Crow has backed proposals for harsher punishments for Australian drug cheats who, she claims, are stealing the "innocence of sport" in a written submission to a Senate hearing due to take place in Canberra on Friday (October 17).
The hearing, in front of the Senate's Community Affairs Legislation Committee, will be attended by a delegation from the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) led by President John Coates, and will discuss proposed changes to the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) Bill.
The proposed changes are designed to bring the Bill in line with the new World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code, due to come into effect on January 1, 2015, and includes doubling the ban for athletes from two to four years, banning athletes from associating with support personnel who have violated anti-doping rules and extending from eight to 10 years the period in which investigations can begin.
Back in August, Coates, who is also vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, called on National Federations in Australia to comply with the WADA Code or risk losing their membership status.
He also warned athletes aiming for a spot at Rio 2016 that any found to be associating with individuals who have been charged with anti-doping violations will not be heading to Brazil.
Ahead of the hearing, Coates urged the Senate Committee to "make the clean athletes a priority and decide how hard you want to carry the fight up to those who choose to cheat".
His sentiments have been echoed by Crow, the chairperson of the AOC's Athletes' Commission, who believes that "allowing soft sanctions is punishing every clean athlete".
Crow, 29, winner of the women's single sculls gold at the World Rowing Championships in Changju, South Korea, last year, is competing overseas and is unable to attend Friday's hearing.
But, in her submission, she has called for Australia to fully implement the harsher punishments contained in the revised WADA Code.
"While four-year sanctions for serious offenders may seem a strong penalty, the sporting context suggests otherwise," wrote Crow, who won double sculls silver and single sculls bronze at London 2012.
"For every doper out there, clean athletes suffer.
"We dedicate our hearts and souls to pursuing our sporting dreams.
"To have these dreams stolen by cheats is an irreplaceable theft.
"Imagine training every day with the knowledge that you were competing against 'dirty' athletes.
"How do you motivate yourself?
"Imagine finishing in fourth spot, only to later find out that you were beaten by cheats?
"This is a moment in time you can never get back."
The issue of doping in sport hit the headlines in Australia following scandals in the National Rugby League (NRL) and Australian Football League.
ASADA and the Australian Crime Commission conducted an investigation into the widespread use of banned substances in both sports, with players at NRL side Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks allegedly given prohibited substances suitable "for equine use only", while up to 14 current and former players at NRL outfit Essendon were implicated in a drugs scandal.
In August, ASADA handed 12 players from the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 12-month suspensions for unknowingly taking prohibited substances during the 2011 season, but these were back-dated resulting in some players only missing out on three matches this season.
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