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Italian officials reluctant to suspend anti-doping laws during Olympics

Italian officials reluctant to suspend anti-doping laws during Olympics{mosimage}A proposal for suspension of Italy’s tough anti-doping laws during the Winter Olympics in Turin early next year is facing growing opposition.

Under Italian law, athletes can face criminal sanctions for doping violations – raising the possibility of police raids in the Olympic village.

Government supervisor Mario Pescante and the International Olympic Committee want the law put on hold during the Games Feb. 10-26. Under IOC rules, athletes face disqualification from the Olympics for any doping offence during the Games.

Italian legislators are reluctant to make any change.

“Personally I am against” suspending the law, Gianfranco Fini, the deputy premier and foreign minister, said Tuesday. “I believe that one of the principles of sports is fairness.

“An athlete who uses banned substances comes under this principle and therefore I would not support measures to render our legislation – which is one of the most just and severe in the world – weaker for people who use (banned) substances.”

Turin is home to one of Italy’s top anti-doping prosecutors in Raffaele Guariniello.

Earlier this month, Health Minister Francesco Storace came out against Pescante’s proposal.

“The thought of rewarding sports champions by de-penalizing the use of drugs at the Turin Olympics is unthinkable,” Storace said. “I suggest to my friend Pescante to avoid insisting on messages that are seriously non-educative to our youth.”

Pescante, also an IOC member, expressed frustration at the continuing impasse.

“I expected a strong reaction to my proposal, but now I’m being treated as a lobbyist for dopers,” he said. “The IOC is only asking that we respect the rules. I spoke for an hour with (IOC president Jacques) Rogge and he is very worried.”

Pescante, also the government’s undersecretary for sports, is scheduled to submit his proposal to the Senate on Wednesday.

Pescante has spoken to the presidents of international winter sports federations and says they also are expecting the law to be lifted for the Games.

“They expect Italy will respect the duties it took on when it was assigned the Games,” he said.

-The Associated Press

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