Coates calls for urgent doping compliance
DOPING: Australia's Olympics chief has urged all sporting bodies to bring their anti-drugs codes up to world standard or risk not being able to participate in major events.
But professional athletes fear their legal rights and careers are at risk by toughening up the rules.
A Senate committee heard evidence on Friday from Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates ahead of parliament debating and passing laws to strengthen the powers of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA).
The laws will bring ASADA into line with the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA), which will introduce tougher penalties next year.
WADA will double bans - from two to four years - for athletes using performance-enhancing drugs.
Athletes will also be banned from dealing with coaches, trainers and sports scientists who have broken anti-doping laws, and the period in which investigations can begin into past doping offences will be extended by two years, to 10 years.
Coates said Australia was lagging behind other countries and sports bodies, and parliament needed to step up the pace of reform.
"The horse has bolted," he said.
The first major event to be affected could be AFC Asian Cup - to be hosted by Australia in early 2015 - if the peak soccer body isn't WADA-code compliant.
Australia's preparations to put together an Olympic team for the Rio Games in 2016 could also be affected if the various national sports federations are not compliant with the world code by January 1.
Any athlete involved in a sporting body that was not code compliant would not be accepted into the team, he said.
"It's critical to deal with anti-doping in a consistent and harmonised way," Coates said.
"Our athletes want the same penalties applying across all the sports."
The inquiry heard from former Carlton player and now AFL Players' Association general manager, Ian Prendergast, who argued the Essendon supplements saga had revealed flaws in Australia's drug-testing regime, which did not need tougher penalties.
He compared the players' situation to a construction worker being charged after getting an asbestos-related illness from his workplace.
"Would we be talking about punishing those workers, or would we be talking about compensating them?" he told the hearing.
"It's already had a huge toll on these athletes and, if they are handed penalties, then they have the potential to end their careers."
Prendergast said the players, who had put their trust in their employer and sports medicine advisers, had been subjected to a 19-month ASADA investigation which was still only at the show-cause notice phase.
Australian Athletes Alliance general secretary Brendan Schwab said sports codes should be free to develop their own anti-drug schemes.