The International Association of Athletics Federations and the World Anti-Doping Agency have made inquiries about a plan to offer amnesty to Ukrainian track and field athletes by the Ukrainian Athletics Federation.
Last week, the Ukrainian Athletics Federation wrote on its website that athletes on national team of the country using performance enhancing drugs could serve very short bans in secret if they confess. The website referred to an amnesty period of one month running until April 3. It was mentioned on the UAF website that 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 if they voluntarily confess to their own drug use. Some banned steroids only take a few days to leave the body.
It was also suggested on the UAF website that there could be harsher punishment for athletes who did not confess and are caught later, as the lack of a confession would be an "aggravating circumstance" that appears to breach WADA rules.
The standard doping ban under rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency is four years that can be halved for a voluntary confession.
Under rules of the world track and field governing body, secret bans are not permitted. The IAAF rules state that names of offenders cannot be kept secret unless the athlete is a child.
IAAF spokesman Chris Turner said we are informed of this news and are in discussions with WADA and we are seeking clarification from the Ukrainian federation.
Reacting to the website statement, UAF vice president Fidel Timchenko said that the statements on the website (now deleted) should have specified athletes would have to inform on other dopers, not just confess their own drug use. Under WADA rules, providing "substantial assistance" to investigations can mean a potential ban is cut by up to 75 percent or even eliminated altogether in exceptional cases. The UAF vice president also remarked he did not consider the plan to be an amnesty but his views did not appear to match statements made by Ihor Hotsul, the UAF president, in a recent interview. The UAF president compared the initiative to a weapons amnesty run by police; his interview did not mention any requirement for athletes to inform on others.
The UAF vice president, in a further twist, said athletes who only confessed their own drug use might also be let off without punishment because they had not failed a doping test. Timchenko remarked the main thing is a medical document and not a confession. Timchenko did not disclose how many athletes have taken up its offer and has yet to contact WADA about the cases.
Ukraine has a poor record on doping and conducts few drug tests by European standards. Athletes of the country have been stripped of three track medals from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. The repeated doping violations of Ukraine have seen it classed as in IAAF "critical care" and the country is now just one step away from a Russia-style ban from international competition.
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