Disagreement Over Anti-Doping Regulations Could Mean Soccer No Longer Allowed in the Olympics

LONDON (AP)- Soccer could be out of the Olympics if FIFA doesn’t change its anti-doping rules after sport’s highest court said it didn’t comply with the World Anti-Doping Code.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Monday soccer’s world governing body was not compliant with the rules of the code issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The Montreal-based agency dictates doping policy for all 35 Olympic sports federations.

FIFA adopted the WADC at its Congress in 2004 but WADA has ruled that soccer hasn’t changed its rules to be in line with the code. Both parties asked CAS in November for its opinion on integrating the code into FIFA’s disciplinary rules.

The 68-page CAS ruling written by three Swiss lawyers is not legally binding. Nor is the WADC.

"If they don’t want to they don’t have to" agree to the code said WADA chairman Dick W. Pound in a conference call. "But the IOC has modified the Olympic charter to make it mandatory for any sport that’s on the Olympic program to have adopted and apply the WADC."

The main sticking point is the length of bans for positive doping tests. WADA has an automatic two-year ban. FIFA wants each case to be individually determined with bans of between six months and two years.

"As an association governed by Swiss law FIFA is free within the limits of mandatory Swiss law to determine such sanctions on anti-doping violations as it deems appropriate said CAS adding that FIFA could "establish lower minimum sanctions than provided by the WADC."

WADA’s executive committee meets May 13 in Montreal to discuss whether it should declare FIFA noncompliant with the code. If it does Pound said the International Olympic Committee would need to consider if soccer could be contested in the games.

Qualifying for the men’s 16-team and women’s 12-team tournament for the 2008 Olympics begins next year.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he was pleased that CAS had found FIFA’s doping provisions were fully in line with Swiss law and complied with the anti-doping code "to the greatest possible extent."

"With this legal opinion which FIFA itself sought CAS has laid the foundations for resolving any differences that exist with regard to the World Anti-Doping Code Blatter said.

Blatter said the CAS document agreed that the organization’s "individual case management" system to determine drug penalties complied with the code.

FIFA’s next congress is June 7-8 in Munich Germany ahead of the World Cup which runs June 9-July 9. If FIFA doesn’t comply with the WADC any drug sanction during the tournament will be under FIFA’s rules. WADA could contest any punishment but CAS is unlikely to uphold an appeal.

WADA cannot sanction organizations such as FIFA but can recommend measures to governments and national soccer associations.

The WADA code approved by international federations and national governments sets out uniform rules against performance-enhancing drugs across all sports and countries.