MOSCOW (AP) — A plan to offer amnesty to Ukrainian track and field athletes who confess to doping has led to inquiries from the IAAF and World Anti-Doping Agency.
The Ukrainian Athletics Federation wrote on its website last week that athletes on the country’s national team using performance-enhancing drugs could serve very short bans in secret if they confess. Secret bans, however, would break IAAF rules.
“We’re informed. We’re in discussions with WADA and we’re seeking clarification from the Ukrainian federation,” IAAF spokesman Chris Turner told The Associated Press last week.
Ukraine, which has been stripped of three track medals from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, has a poor record on doping and conducts few drug tests by European standards.
The UAF website referred to a month-long amnesty period running until April 3. If athletes “voluntarily confess” to their own drug use, “the information will not be made public and the athlete will not face sanctions other than quarantine (temporary suspension from competition) for the period taken for traces of banned substances to leave the body.”
It can take only a few days for some banned steroids to leave the body. A standard doping ban under WADA rules is four years, which can be halved for a voluntary confession. Keeping offenders’ names secret breaks IAAF regulations, which demand “automatic publication” unless the athlete is a child.
The UAF also suggested there could be harsher punishment for athletes who didn’t confess and are caught later, since the lack of a confession would be an “aggravating circumstance.” That appears to breach WADA rules.
WADA has also said it has contacted Ukrainian authorities for clarification.
Ukraine’s repeated doping violations have seen it classed as in IAAF “critical care” — one step away from a Russia-style ban from international competition.
There have been conflicting responses about the amnesty offer from Ukrainian officials.
UAF vice president Fidel Timchenko told the AP in a recent interview that the statements on the website — since deleted — should have specified athletes would have to inform on other dopers, not just confess their own drug use. Providing “substantial assistance” to investigations can mean a potential ban is cut by up to 75 percent or even eliminated altogether in exceptional cases, under WADA rules.
Timchenko also said he didn’t consider the plan to be an amnesty, but his views didn’t appear to match statements made by UAF president Ihor Hotsul in an interview with Russia’s TASS news agency. Hotsul compared the initiative to a weapons amnesty run by police, and his interview didn’t mention any requirement for athletes to inform on others.
In a further twist, Timchenko told the AP that athletes who only confessed their own drug use might also be let off without punishment because they hadn’t failed a doping test.
“Words aren’t enough,” Timchenko said. “The main thing is a medical document, not a confession.”
The UAF wouldn’t say how many athletes have taken up its offer and has yet to contact WADA about the cases, Timchenko said.
WADA approval would be needed for any reduced sanctions for whistleblowers, under rules designed to prevent the system from being abused. Timchenko argued names could be kept secret for a time for whistleblowers’ safety, but the IAAF said all names would have to be published.
Timchenko combines his track federation duties with a role as head of the Ukrainian anti-doping agency’s disciplinary committee. He denied his dual role was a conflict of interest and said he wouldn’t rule on sanctions for track athletes.
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