Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Harmonization of Doping Sanctions: A Victory for Sports Governance

Earlier this week the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled against the British Olympic Association in a dispute with the World Anti-Doping Agency over sanctions on athletes convicted of doping in sport (CAS press release here in PDF). 

The BOA had implemented a lifetime ban on such athletes.  WADA had deemed such sanctions to be non-compliant with their code, which seeks to making doping policies consistent across the world. WADA explains:
WADA has spent the last decade harmonizing the fight against doping in sport across the world by creating one set of rules in consultation and in accordance with the wishes of all its stakeholders, both sport and government.

In order to achieve this harmonization, the rules have had to be proportionate and respectful of the rights of individuals within the framework of international law. They are not based on emotive arguments or the wishes of any one signatory or individual.
The CAS was careful to point out that its judgment in this case was based on procedural considerations, and not a judgment on the merits of what might constitute an appropriate punishment for doping (from the decision, here in PDF):
[T]he Panel wishes to reiterate its comments in paragraph 8.27 of the USOC Award, which indicate that the Panel’s Award is not an opposition to the sanctions imposed by the IOC Regulation or, in this case, the BOA Bye-Law. Rather, the awards in both cases simply reflect the fact that the international anti-doping movement has recognized the crucial importance of a worldwide harmonized and consistent fight against doping in sport, and it has agreed(in Article 23.2.2 WADA Code) to comply with such a principle, without any substantial deviation in any direction. 
The arbitration panel notes that the BOA continues to have recourse by working within the WADA Code to secure support for the harsher sanctions for doping that it advocates:
[T]he Panel notes that the BOA and the IOC are free, as are others, to persuade other stakeholders that an additional sanction of inability to participate in the Olympic Games may be a proportionate, appropriate sanction of an anti-doping offence and may therefore form part of a revised WADA Code. At the moment, the system in place does not permit what the BOA has done.
Whatever one thinks about doping and what constitutes an appropriate sanction, the CAS decision represents a victory for sports governance overall, and for WADA in particular.


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