Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) President John Coates will tell a Senate hearing that the new World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code will be a "game-changer" for Australian sport as he pushes for the country to adopt harsher punishments for drug cheats.
Coates will lead an AOC delegation that will appear before the Senate's Community Affairs Legislation Committee in the capital Canberra tomorrow where discussions will take place on 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 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.
"The ASADA act is paramount to the protection of clean athletes and their fundamental right to participate in doping free sport and thus promote health, fairness and equality for athletes," Coates, who is also a vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, will tell the hearing.
"These amendments are critical to protecting clean athletes and ensuring the Australian Government's continued commitment to the Code.
"The new WADA Code is a game-changer.
"From January next year the people pulling the strings, the high performance experts, sports scientists, coaches and trainers will be targeted...they will have nowhere to hide."
The revised WADA Code was agreed at the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg, South Africa last November following a near two-year consultation process.
Coates will highlight the so-called "blackest day in Australian sport" involving the National Rugby League (NRL) and Australian Football League (AFL) and will argue that aligning with the WADA Code will give greater independence and power to ASADA to target and punish drug cheats.
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.
"The issues here are aligning the legislation under which ASADA operates with the World Anti-Doping Code and giving ASADA the means to get on with its work without interference from any of us involved in Australian sport," continues Coates, who will reiterate the AOC's full backing of ASADA and dismiss claims that the proposed amendments are a breach of human rights.
"Only then will the integrity of ASADA and its work be ensured."
Submissions from a number of high profile athletes from both Australia and internationally will be used at the hearing.
World champion rower Kim Crow, who is also chairperson of the AOC's Athletes' Commission, is backing the changes, claiming that drug cheats are stealing "the innocence of sport".
Former world champion swimmer and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Matthew Dunn, a member of the International Aquatics Federation Bureau, has said in his submission: "As an ex-athlete I hope all stakeholders will be able to use the new WADA Code with maximum effect to protect all clean athletes and ensure a level playing field."
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