Australian Anti-Doping Authority Given Police-Like Powers as Senate Passes Bill

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Australia’s Senate has passed a bill giving the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) greater powers to help it speed up doping investigations. The new legislation means ASADA will be able to demand phone records, text messages, documents and medical prescriptions of suspect athletes and other parties, with fines of up to $5,100 being handed out to those who fail to comply with the requests. ASADA will also have the right to question suspects.

John Coates has been calling for harsher penalties for Australian drugs cheats.

“Doping has no place in sport and it is incumbent on the Government to provide ASADA with the right tools to investigate allegations of doping,” Sports Minister Kate Lundy said.

Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) President John Coates welcomed the passing of the bill and congratulated Lundy, saying it “reinforces the Minister’s strong commitment to the fight against doping in sport in Australia. With this legislation and the new powers it provides ASADA, Australia remains at the forefront of the fight against doping in sport.”

It was Coates and double Olympic rowing medalist Kim Crow who had pushed for even tougher penalties for non-compliance with investigations earlier this year after some of Australia’s biggest sports stars were implicated in the country’s biggest-ever doping scandal.

Coates has been lobbying Government for over a decade to give ASADA coercive powers and told the Senate inquiry “of the thousands of tests annually, only 0.89 per cent result in a meaningful ADRV [Anti-Doping Rule Violation].”

Although the Senate was initially concerned that the original bill went too far, it negotiated several amendments to achieve a balance.”Ultimately we do accept the argument that ASADA needs further powers to expand its investigations into doping,” Victorian Greens politician Richard Di Natale told the chamber.”But those powers need to be limited and they need to be fully compatible with fundamental legal and human rights that we value so highly in this country.”Last minute safeguards were added to plans to grant ASADA police-like powers as legislation cleared the Senate, including giving suspects the right to remain silent and the protection of doctor patient confidentiality so GPs would only answer questions about doping and not about an athlete’s medical history.

Other amendments included requiring ASADA chief executive Aurora Andruska to obtain two signatures from the anti-doping violation panel in order to be able to compel witnesses to a hearing.

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2013 now returns to the lower house for final approval.

Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important to the Olympic Movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors.