New rules that require Australian Olympians to sign a drug-free declaration could bring down a “cone of silence” among athletes, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president John Fahey fears.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) announced the introduction of the landmark rule on Tuesday in the midst of the current doping scandal engulfing the NRL and AFL.
With those competing at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games kick-starting the process it will now be mandatory for all future Australian Olympians to sign a statutory declaration about doping, with those who lie facing up to five years’ imprisonment.
Addressing the WADA’s annual media symposium in London, Australian Fahey voiced his concerns over enforcing such a document.
“To sign a declaration under the Oaths Act, which carries with it some pretty severe penalties in our legal system, to indicate they are not doping and never have doped, I worry a bit about that,” Fahey said on Tuesday.
“The intention is very good, they want clean athletes representing the Australian community and I think all of us who are Australians think that’s a good idea.
“But it seems to me that when you require that sort of thing to be done you’re effectively pulling down that cone of silence straight away.
“Will people find themselves in a position where: ‘I’ve just been selected to represent my country in the Olympics. If I say that three years ago I did this, or I did that, they’d send me out of the team. My sporting life is over.’
“You step over the line at that point, or you stay behind the line, and you can never recover. And I just worry about the way this will be reflected in the future.
“I think the last thing we would want to see is the cone of silence, which has been seen in cycling, come in in other areas.”
All members of the AOC’s executive, its committees and commission as well as AOC staff will also be required to make the statutory declaration in the coming weeks, said a statement issued by the committee.
Anyone refusing to sign will be ineligible for the Australian Olympic team or AOC employment.
AOC president John Coates circulated final details of the Ethical Behaviour By Law amendment to his executive last Thursday – the same day the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) tabled its findings about widespread banned drug abuse in elite sport.