Doping-Spain moving to shed drug-cheat haven label

Wed Oct 30, 2013 1:37pm EDT
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By Braden Phillips

BARCELONA (Reuters) - For years considered a haven for drug cheats in sport, Spain is facing up to its chequered past and trying to clean its image with a beefed-up anti-doping law.

Legislators in the Iberian nation, home of such decorated champions as tennis player Rafa Nadal, Formula One driver Fernando Alonso and the world's best soccer team, have set up a new body to replace the national anti-doping agency (AEA) and armed it with enhanced powers under rules that took effect in July.

The Agency for the Protection of Health in Sport (AEPSAD) is an independent organization responsible for managing and carrying out doping tests rather than leaving them in the hands of national sports federations.

It will administer punishments such as levying fines and be able to suspend licenses and has already attracted warm praise from international officials.

"I think Spain's reputation is vastly improved with the changes they have made," David Howman, director general of the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA), told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"But now that the rules are in place, it depends on how they carry them out," he added. "They have to test the right people at the right time."

AEPSAD has already been flexing its muscles.

Right after the doping law came into effect, the agency conducted tests at the Spanish athletics championships that yielded three "adverse" findings, leading to the suspension of licenses until investigations have been completed.   Continued...

David Howman, President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) attends a news conference during the European Commission Sport Forum in Budapest on February 22, 2011. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh