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Doping athletes 'deserve benefit of doubt'

AAP logoAAP 14/11/2016 Stuart Layt

Queensland researchers have called on anti-doping authorities to overhaul their testing regime, with a new study showing many athletes busted for doping aren't given a deserved benefit of the doubt.

The James Cook University study of 100 cases of doping in Australia found 23 per cent of sanctioned cases involve claims of accidental or inadvertent doping.

One of the report's authors, Associate Professor Stephen Moston, said while some claims strain credibility, others are plausible explanations that suggest innocence - resulting in blameless athletes being punished.

Dr Moston said in many cases athletes act in good faith to avoid banned substances but are tripped up by changing ban lists or alternate forms of banned substances.

"The World Anti-Doping Agency justifies anti-doping as necessary to protect the spirit of sport, but if the spirit of sport is that you have no way of defending yourself, this goes completely against accepted practises in something like the criminal justice system," he said.

In one of the cases identified in the report, released on Tuesday, an athlete was sanctioned for taking a substance which was merely chemically similar to a substance on a ban list.

"When you get cases like that, it really does make you think this is trying to catch people out, rather than to catch the really guilty people," Dr Moston said.

He argued it would be better for authorities to interview athletes to detect whether there was an intention to dope or otherwise to have a "reasonable person" standard in anti-doping cases.

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