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Sports

New German anti-doping law revealed

German athletes who dope are due to come in for heavier punishment. The German government has drafted a new law that will even see those using performance-enhancing drugs in sport sent to prison.

It all happened on his wedding night. German national team handballer Michael Kraus will have had a lot on his mind that night - but not a doping test. Yet at just before 6am, the doorbell rang and there was a doping officer requesting a urine sample. Even though Kraus had registered his wedding in the obligatory registration system ADAMS, the officer at his door that morning was a member of the national anti doping agency (NADA). Kraus criticized the timing of the test, claiming it was "suspect and a type of bullying."

When Kraus went public with the story, it revealed two things. Firstly, NADA have had it in for Kraus since he missed three doping tests, something they released so as to challenge Kraus' words. Secondly, the wind is changing in German sport.

The country is determined to take a more serious path towards clamping down on the anti-doping problem. NADA have been granted more money and are keen to broaden their tests in 2015, but German politics has also realized the relevance of the topic, albeit a little late.

Thomas de Maizière and Jeiko Maas

Thomas de Maizière and Jeiko Maas penned the new anti-doping law

In 2009, Germany's Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière refused, even after numerous doping scandals involving German sportsmen and women, to draft an anti-doping law. "I'm cautious to instantly implement strong legal regulations," he said at the time.

Five years later, de Maizière, along with justice minister Jeiko Maas, has now drafted and launched a new anti-doping law. Presented in Berlin on Wednesday, the document includes some heavy consequences for German sport.

Up to three years in prison

Most notably, the draft law includes a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment for those that dope. Previously, Germany's normal anti-drug laws rarely saw athletes prosecuted. With the new, proposed law, regular German courts could sentence dopers to time behind bars. The scare tactic may just work.

This tactic is only directed at top level and professional sportsmen and women though. In the draft, only those "earning a significant amount from sport" are open to investigation and punishment for doping. Those in question are the 7,000 top athletes in NADA's test pool. Amateur and mass sport is not included.

Doping in amateur sport may give you a sporting advantage, but not a financial one, and implementing the laws in amateur sport could be tricky. The focus is clearly on practicality instead of a universal ban on doping in recreational sport.

Tour de France drug test

French authorities have used an anti-doping law for years, like here at the Tour de France

Between resistance and agreement

It's not just those hat dope who are set for punishment, but also those involved in the process too. The entire doping network, doctors or advisors that provide the doping agents, could be called up to stand in front of a judge, under the new law. In particularly bad cases, such as underage doping or devised team doping, prison sentences of up to ten years are possible.

De Maizière and Maas' draft underwent a lengthy consultation process, which apparently included a long discussion with the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB). Those who originally opposed the doping law being taken outside of sport's legal area, have had to come around - even if the DOSB remain critical about the planned punishment for possession.

Support from Germany's sporting associations is already coming in though. The anti-doping law is a "huge step in the effective battle against doping," praised Clemens Prokop, president of Germany's Athletics Association (DLV). His counterpart at Germany's Cycling Association (BDR), Rudolf Scharping, hopes that the law will also remove the "in-between men and the criminal network of doping." Germany's football team manager Oliver Bierhoff has also supported the draft because "only with tough, drastic sanctions," can sport be clean, he says.

The law is expected to come into force at the start of 2015.

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