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Germany stepping up war on doping

Politicians in Germany are stepping up the fight against doping and match-fixing, as the Bavarian Ministry of Justice presents a bill calling for prison terms of up to five years for any professional sportsperson involved in either practice.

Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, of the CDU party, has expressed her determination to fight doping.

In their coalition agreement, the new German government agreed to firm up the law against doping, which became a major issue in the country last year following a report into the historic use of performance-enhancing drugs and increased recently when a biathlete at the Winter Olympics in Sochi tested positive.

Four months into the coalition rule, to address public concern over corruption in sport, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Health have begun working on a new law covering doping, which would make “manipulation of the [athlete’s] own body and performance” a criminal offence. They are set to begin work on a new match-fixing law at a later date.

However, some German states would prefer a single law and authorities in Bavaria proposed their own bill on Monday calling for any sportsperson found to be in possession of performance-enhancing drugs to face criminal proceedings and up to five years’ imprisonment.

The bill argues that the existing German law is “fragmentary” and fails to meet its objective, adding: “To take powerful action against doping crimes, a broadening and tightening of the current penal provisions is needed.”

One major issue centres on whether to issue charges on the grounds of fraud or possession of performance-enhancing drugs. Another state, Baden-Wuerttemberg, believes a fraud charge is sufficient, but the Bavarian government has said a possession charge is preferable to assist in punishing all those responsible.

The FAZ newspaper reports that the German administration would prefer to wait for a new European Union convention with regard to match-fixing, but the Bavarian Ministry of Justice wants to cover the issue under an “umbrella law” with doping. Match-fixing has been a prominent concern in the country in recent years as a result of scandals in 2005 and 2009, both involving the Sapina brothers, who are still on trial over the more recent matter.

The Bavarian bill argues that new monitoring systems have failed “to curb the excesses of corruption effectively” and that only the federal state can “clear up match-fixing through criminal procedural authorities.”

The majority of related betting takes place in foreign markets, and it adds: “Match-fixing can only be fought effectively through a penal law that treats the manipulators on the pitch as perpetrators.”

However, FAZ reports that there may be resistance among the Christian Democratic Union’s sports politicians when the matter comes to a vote in the German Federal Parliament amid fears of a “criminalisation of the athletes.”

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