Spain's new anti-doping law fails to send hard message

Last Updated: Sat, Mar 09, 2013 09:40 hrs

Madrid, March 9 (IANS) The Spanish cabinet approved a new anti-doping law in what can be seen as a failed attempt to clean up the country's image as being soft on doping in sport.

The new law has been passed just 10 days before the Evaluation Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) visit Madrid to value the candidacy of the Spanish capital to host the 2020 Olympic Games, reports Xinhua.

It also happens in the middle of the ongoing 'Operation Puerto' doping trial, which has been running for several weeks. Although Operation Puerto originally deals with cycling, revelations to have come out of the trial have linked other sports to doping and have raised serious doubts over the 'cleanliness' of Spanish sport in relation to doping with football and athletics both so far implicated.

However, for all the statements by Spain's vice-president, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria and Secretary of State for Sport, Miguel Cardenal, it is unlikely that this new law will actually change anything or improve the image that Spain has of being a country that is tolerant on doping at worst and at best tolerant of the issue.

Although the new law contemplates fines of up to 400,000 euros for those supplying or treating an athlete and allows anti-doping authorities to carry out controls between 23:00 hours and 06:00 hours, it contains one important flaw, it is still not considered a crime under this law for an athlete to dope.

The fact that doping by an athlete is still not considered a crime in the new law is tantamount to putting a new guard dog on duty, but first taking its teeth out.

Although Cardenal highlighted that "doping is an industrial activity for manufacturing, commercialising and distributing illegal substances," and a "sector of organised criminal activity which generates important economic benefits for mafias," that attitude appears to imply that sportsmen and women who dope are merely the tools of organised crime who have no free will of their own.

The new law and Cardenal's declarations fail to consider that an athlete could take a conscious decision themselves to dope in order to increase their earnings, to win titles (and in doing so cheat other 'clean' athletes who have chosen to compete without illegal stimulants) and to attract sponsors.

This is clearly a major error given that the huge amounts of money moved in professional sport these days mean the temptation for some to dope is high and higher still if the possible sanctions are not in place.

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