Spain about to restore WADA compliance with new doping laws

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MADRID (AP) — Spain is about to get back in the fight against doping.

With political stability finally restored, the country is again in position to become compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency, nearly eight months after it was suspended because of inadequate doping legislation.

Spanish authorities say they have everything in place to approve the law changes that will allow the nation to abide by WADA's revised global anti-doping code.

WADA declared Spain "non-compliant" this year after the country failed to adapt its legislation because it couldn't form a government following two inconclusive elections that prompted a political deadlock which lasted nearly 10 months.

The country's political parties finally reached an agreement to end the stalemate last month, and Wednesday is the first day in which the parliament can start working on new legislation. Officials guarantee that it's only a matter of time before the required changes are approved and the nation regains WADA compliance.

The country's top government sports official, Miguel Cardenal, said that the legislation changes are "ready" and just waiting for approval.

Spain's anti-doping agency said that the negotiations to have the changes made had already been conducted even before the political impasse was resolved, leaving everything in place for a quick approval by the parliament.

"(The changes) are important to assure that our athletes are subjected to the same rules as any other athlete in the world," said Enrique Gomez Bastida, director of Spain's anti-doping agency. "It's fundamental that there are no differences between the rules in which athletes have to follow in their countries and the ones applied by their respective international federation."

There has been no timetable set by the government, but the new legislation could come into effect in a matter of weeks.

The changes would make a greater number of infractions punishable, allow for harsher sanctions and extend the statute of limitation for violations.

"WADA looks forward to receiving draft legislation from Spain at the earliest opportunity, so that we can check whether it is in line with the code," WADA spokesman Ben Nichols said. "Once such legislation is deemed to be in line with the code, it has to be adopted and the independent compliance review committee will then be in a position to re-assess the situation and make a recommendation (regarding code compliance) to the foundation board."

Not long after Spain was declared non-compliant in March, WADA also suspended the accreditation of the Madrid drug-testing lab, dealing another blow to the country which has long been under scrutiny because of doping.

Earlier this year, a Spanish court ruled that blood bags that were key evidence in Operation Puerto, one of the nation's worst doping scandals, had to be handed over to authorities for investigation, a major win 10 years after the revelation about the doping network involving some of the world's top cyclists.

Several athletes, including Rafael Nadal, had been criticizing the delay to hand over the bags, saying the lack of closure on the case further damaged the country's image in the fight against doping.

The president of the Spanish Olympic Committee, Alejandro Blanco, criticized local officials earlier this year for not being able to approve the necessary changes needed for Spain to comply with WADA's revised code. He said other countries also endured political problems but were able to make the changes and become compliant.

WADA's anti-doping code was revised in 2015 to give the agency more power in the fight against doping.


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