By Phillip Whitten
BARCELONA, July 14. AS expected, the FINA Congress, meeting in Barcelona yesterday, reduced the penalty for doping offenses from four years to two.
The action came after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)
adopted a new global anti-doping code, including the introduction of two-year bans for steroid offences. The code, which has been hailed as a major step forward in the fight against drug cheats, actually weakens the penalties for doping in the sport of swimming, which has been the toughest of all sports in the anti-doping battle. However, several international governing bodies, which had much lesser penalties, made it clear they would not agree to penalties any more severe than two years.
FINA president Mustapha Larfaoui said the measure was adopted unanimously at the federation's extraordinary Congress meeting on the eve of the World Swimming Championships. However, a number of delegates to the congress indicated they opposed the measure.
What was left unclear is the effect the new code would have on the penalties for swimmers previously banned for more than two years. Costa Rica's Claudia Poll and the USA's Kicker Vencill fall into this category. If Poll's ban is reduced to two years, she will be eligible to compete in the 2004 Olympic Games. Both Poll and Vencill have steadfastly maintained their innocence and their bans are under appeal.
The world anti-doping code was endorsed by sports organizations and national governments at a conference in Copenhagen last March. It establishes uniform anti-doping rules and sanctions for all sports.
All Olympic sports federations were required formally to adopt the code before the 2004 Athens Games.
In the case of unintentional doping involving prohibited substances contained in medicines, FINA will issue a warning for first-time violators and enforce the two-year suspension for second offenses.