Stokes case puts spotlight on WADA Code - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Stokes case puts spotlight on WADA Code

By Roger Vaughan 04/02/2010 07:54:00 PM Comments (0)

The same all-powerful anti-doping code that was originally designed to crack down on international sports cheats could also end Mathew Stokes' AFL career.

The Stokes drugs case has put an unexpected spotlight on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code.

Hours after the Geelong premiership forward was bailed in Geelong Magistrates Court on Wednesday for alleged trafficking and possession of cocaine, AFL operations manager Adrian Anderson dropped another bombshell.

Anderson pointed out that if Stokes is found guilty of trafficking one gram of cocaine, the 25-year-old could then face a hefty sporting ban under the WADA Code.

Trafficking a prohibited substance, regardless of the circumstances, carries a ban of four years to life under the code.

It does not matter that the allegation is unrelated to competition.

WADA was formed in the wake of the Festina scandal that rocked professional cycling during the 1998 Tour de France.

The code, first drafted in 2003, gives WADA substantial powers and widespread jurisdiction in regards to doping and drugs offences in sport.

The AFL are a signatory to WADA and so come under the code.

Just as the code applies to disgraced Olympic gold medallists, it could also punish a footballer who allegedly bought a gram of cocaine for a mate.

"What this does is just simply underscores the significant reach and power of international sports law and the reach of the WADA Code," said Melbourne barrister Paul Hayes.

"It (the code) only came into being in 2003 and what we are seeing is international sports anti-doping law trying to define its empire, which is looking as though it is going to be substantial."

A growing number of people are concerned about the scope of that power.

Melbourne sports lawyer Paul Horvath has been involved in cases governed by the code.

"WADA is tough and unapologetically so," Horvath said.

"I'm opposed to the severity and inflexibility of the sanctions set out within the code."

Of course, Stokes has a lot on his mind at the moment without thinking about the vagaries of international sports law.

"He's shattered and really struggling," Cats chief executive Brian Cook said on Thursday.

Geelong have stood Stokes down and are conducting their own investigation.

He will soon explain himself to the team's leadership group.

The AFL also have the power to suspend Stokes for misconduct.

On March 12, Stokes will front court again.

"There are all sorts of potential issues - it's too soon to tell," Hayes said.

"Any case brought against him under the WADA Code would be dealt with after the charges are determined.

"You've also got to remember, he's innocent until he's proven guilty."

If WADA becomes involved, the case would probably go through the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

There, Hayes said, the overall standard of proof would not be as high for the prosecution as it is in a Victorian criminal court.

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