Germany approves new doping law with tougher sanctions

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German parliament on Friday passed a new anti-doping law that foresees jail terms and stiff fines for top athletes, coaches and managers who use or acquire banned performance-enhancing substances.

The law only targets top athletes, supported by state funds and on the national anti-doping agency’s test pool and does not affect amateurs.

Athletes will face up to three-year sentences if found guilty of doping or even just the possession of drugs without a positive test.

Doctors or other individuals procuring the substances could be sent to jail for up to 10 years as the entourage of the athletes is also moved more into focus.

“This law declares war on deceivers and cheats,” German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said.

It still needs to be ratified by the upper house of the German parliament, expected to be a formality, to come into force in January next year.

The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) welcomed the law.

“It has several improvements that strengthen the joint effort of the state and sport’s fight against doping,” the DOSB said in a statement.

Several other European nations, including Italy, Spain and France, have already passed similar laws.

The DOSB, however, said it was still concerned over the punishment of an athlete for self-doping and the possession of drugs in small quantities, saying athletes could now be punished twice after also being sanctioned by their own federations for doping.

Several high profile German athletes have admitted to doping or been caught using banned substances in recent years, including cyclists Jan Ullrich and Stefan Schumacher and biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle, who tested positive at last year’s Sochi winter Olympics.

The new laws was approved by the German parliament only days after a report by the World Anti-doping Agency uncovered widespread doping and corruption among Russian athletes and sports officials.

Lamine Diack, the former head of world athletics (IAAF), is also under formal investigation in France for corruption and money-laundering.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond