27 Oct 2019

ITTF President Thomas Weikert is one of five experts speaking at the public hearing in Berlin; greater leniency towards athletes and possible exemptions from punishment are favoured for future improvements of the Anti-Doping Law.

By James Francis

The current Anti-Doping Law has proved to be a step in the right direction, but there remains plenty to do in order to clamp down on the criminal structures operating ‘behind the scenes’ of doping scandals.

This is the general consensus among experts who met at the Sports Committee in German Parliament to discuss possible amendments to the law in a bid to tackle the issue that has plagued the world of sport for so long more effectively than ever.

When legislators introduced the Anti-Doping Law in 2015, leniency was waived in the law itself. On the one hand, it was pointed out that the Criminal Code already contained a provision for serious crimes, while on the other hand, in the case of self-doping, the punishment to be expected is generally very small. Furthermore, it was discussed that one does not want to damage or destroy the relationship of trust between the athletes.

However, leniency is now seen as a means to providing better protection to whistleblowers on doping offences, allowing them to open up and provide key information more readily, without fear of punishment: a view shared by all experts present at the hearing and endorsed by ITTF President Thomas Weikert:

“The absence of leniency has in my view proved inadequate. Looking into the field of narcotics and the existing leniency regulation in §31 of the Narcotics Law, it is clear that the education required in the fight against doping can only significantly improve if the athlete can provide specific information.

“At the same time, looking beyond the criminal assessment is absolutely necessary. There should be a “vote” with NADA and WADA in the respective anti-doping code and the sports law sanctions, since any potential suspension from sporting activity is of considerable importance to the athlete.

“In addition, I also argue that the penalty for self-doping must be increased, as it is simply too low at present. If one punishes these acts as a simple shoplifting in criminal law, this would not help in terms of supporting a possible leniency programme in future.”

Further ideas for improving the Anti-Doping Law concern the role of helpers and doctors in systematic doping in organised structures. Suggested measures here are temporary job restrictions for athlete supervisors or withdrawing approval for the physicians involved.

This hearing formed only an introduction to the discussion, according to German Sports Committee Chairman Dagmar Freitag. The final evaluation and, if necessary, revision of the Anti-Doping Law is planned for next year.

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