FIFA, WADA set to sign doping accord today

PARIS: A conflict over doping that had threatened soccer's place at this summer's Olympic Games is expected to end today when FIFA signs up to the anti-doping code at its Centennial Congress. 

FIFA, which celebrates its 100th anniversary today, has been in dispute the World Anti-Doping Agency for two years but its president Sepp Blatter, WADA chairman Dick Pound and Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee are expected to sign the accord to finally end the impasse. 

FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren said yesterday: “Common ground has been found and there is no reason why the signing should not go ahead as planned. It's a declaration of intent rather than the precise form of the agreement but that is just a matter of sorting out the legal formalities.” 

Earlier this week it seemed that soccer, which has been part of the Olympic Games since 1908 with the exception of the 1932 Games in Los Angeles, could be dropped from the programme. 

The IOC has made it clear that any sports whose federations do not sign the code will not be allowed to compete in Athens. 

But after a meeting between Pound and Blatter, most of the problems appeared to have been solved. 

Soccer's world governing body has been perceived to be weak on the doping issue over the last few years with relatively lenient sanctions being imposed on players like Edgar Davids and Jaap Stam for nandrolone-related offences. 

Rio Ferdinand was handed an eight-month ban for forgetting to take a doping test last September, which would have earned him a two-year ban if he had been a track and field athlete. 

The issue of what FIFA terms “individual case management” – dealing with each case on its merits rather than subscribing to automatic two-year bans – has held up the agreement. 

WADA also wants to retain the right to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) if it disagrees with any FIFA ruling. This has also provided a sticking point but, according to both sides, these issues are now solved. 

Pound confirmed this week that he had had “fruitful and friendly talks” with Blatter, who publicly embraced Rogge on the opening day of the FIFA Congress yesterday. 

Blatter presented Rogge with the world governing body's Centennial Order of Merit as a mark of recognition marking the relationship between FIFA and the IOC. 

“FIFA will always walk hand in hand with the IOC,” Blatter, himself an IOC member, told delegates at the Congress, adding: “Well, almost always”. 

Rogge will address the Congress today Friday when the accord is expected to be signed in front of delegates meeting at the Carousel du Louvre where FIFA is marking its first 100 years just a few hundred metres from where it was founded at 229 Rue Saint Honore on May 21, 1904. 

Along with the International Cycling Union (UCI), FIFA has been the only major Olympic federation to refuse to sign WADA's anti-doping code. – Reuters 

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