Pickering wants to keep lifetime ban for drug cheats

FORMER Olympic swimmer Karen Pickering believes the British Olympic Association should not be pressurised into scrapping its stance on implementing lifetime Olympic bans for drug cheats.

FORMER Olympic swimmer Karen Pickering believes the British Olympic Association should not be pressurised into scrapping its stance on implementing lifetime Olympic bans for drug cheats.

The four-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist, who chairs the British Athletes Commission, said there should be no way back for athletes who take banned substances, unless there are mitigating circumstances.

The British Olympic Association (BOA) has been asked to scrap its policy of issuing lifetime bans to drug cheats by Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

The World Anti-Doping Agency implemented a maximum ban of two years for athletes who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2004, while in 2008 the International Olympics Committee (IOC) brought in its own increased sanction of an automatic ban from the next Games for anybody given a suspension of longer than six months.


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However, Pickering is of the opinion that a ban should be for life.

“I am fully in favour of a lifetime ban and I think it is a real shame that more countries do not adopt the stance (that the BOA does). However, the BOA does allow appeals in mitigating circumstances,” said Pickering.

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“I am chair of the British Athletes Commission and one thing the commission has done since 1992 is produce a post-Olympic questionnaire for athletes.

“One of the questions asks them whether or not they think the by-law (implementing a lifetime ban) should stand and 95 per cent or higher have said that it should.

The British Olympic Association does have a very good appeals system and that has been used successfully for instance by Scottish skier Alain Baxter who saw the bronze medal, he won at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, stripped from him after he used a banned substance.

Baxter bought a Vicks nasal inhaler in America, like the one he had been using in Britain, only to find the American version contained different ingredients, including a banned substance. (Baxter did not win back his bronze medal won at the 2002 Winter Olympics, but was cleared to compete at the next Games).

“There are sometimes mitigating circumstances but for those who do not have them, I am absolutely in agreement with a lifetime Olympic ban. How an athlete who has served a ban for a serious doping offence can be allowed to compete in another Games is beyond me,” Pickering added.

“No one knows how long the positive benefits of a banned substance can last. We talk a lot about muscle memory and if that substance made an athlete lift more, jump higher or run faster, who is to say that the effect is not going to last when they return?

“The drug cheats argue that by being denied the chance to compete they lose the opportunity to make a living but they did not give a second thought to the athletes they cheated out of medals, sponsorship, possible funding and everything that comes with being in an Olympic final or winning an Olympic medal.”

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