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By ESPN Staff

FIFA adopts new WADA doping code

SYDNEY, Australia -- FIFA ratified the World Anti-Doping Agency's revised drug code Friday, putting aside past differences.

At its annual Congress, FIFA members voted 175 to 1 to adopt the code.

"The commitment of FIFA has been strong and I believe will be even stronger in the days ahead," said Sydney-based WADA president John Fahey, who signed the accord with FIFA president Sepp Blatter minutes after the vote was announced.

"Football is a giant in the universe of sport, and your example is of paramount importance. Your support will be noticed and followed by other sports around the world."

In the past, FIFA has resisted WADA's blanket two-year ban for first-time doping offenses, saying the length of any suspension should take into account individual cases, and that team sports were different from individual events.

In February, following a meeting between Blatter and Fahey, FIFA said it would adopt the code and promised to use "all possible means" to fight performance-enhancing drugs in soccer.

Fahey and Blatter signed a letter of intent to adopt the code, effective Jan. 1 of next year, and the move was rubber-stamped Friday.

FIFA and WADA, under previous president Dick Pound, were often at odds over doping sanctions and other issues. Fahey took over as WADA president on Jan. 1.

"The cooperation now is easier, much easier," Blatter said Friday without elaborating.

Sofoklis Pilavios, a member of the executive committee of Greece's FIFA association, said while it was important to have some flexibility with the code, he felt "WADA and FIFA will work together very closely in the future."

"WADA says two-year suspensions, and we felt that often these should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis," said Pilavios. "But overall, it is good to get this agreement in effect."

The new WADA code was endorsed by sports federations in November at a world doping conference in Madrid, though FIFA opposed certain measures affecting team sports.

Blatter, a member of the WADA board of governors, welcomed the inclusion of more flexible sanctions in the new code. These include the possibility of reduced penalties for minor offenses and sanctions not applying until an athlete or player has missed three doping tests.

Also, the world's national soccer associations voted overwhelmingly in favor of introducing a rule to limit foreign players in domestic club competitions. A total of 155 associations voted in favor of supporting requiring clubs to start all matches with at least six players who are eligible for the national team.

Five associations voted against and 40 abstained.

Blatter proposed the "6+5" rule, saying it would safeguard the national identity of clubs and national teams. It was unanimously endorsed Tuesday by FIFA's executive committee.

But it has been opposed by some of Europe's biggest and richest clubs and contravenes the European Union's principle of free movement of workers.

FIFA officially completed its relationship with MasterCard Inc., announcing a $49 million profit for 2007 at its annual Congress despite a payout of $90 million to the credit card company.

MasterCard and FIFA met in court in 2006 over MasterCard's rights to sponsor the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. A U.S. district judge ruled in December 2006 that FIFA did not honor its agreements with the credit card issuer when it awarded sponsorship rights to Visa International for the tournaments.

In May 2006, a U.S federal appeals court asked the lower court judge to review her ruling due to uncertainties over whether a 2006 contract was valid.

The announcement came after MasterCard Inc. said in June 2007 it would accept a $90 million settlement and discontinue its sponsorship of the World Cup.


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