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ASADA needs law on its side: Coates

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Australian Olympic boss John Coates wants greater powers granted to our anti-doping agency.

Australian Olympic boss John Coates wants greater powers granted to our anti-doping agency. Photo: Jim Rice

National Olympic chief John Coates has renewed calls for investigators to be given power to compel witnesses to give evidence in the fight against doping in Australian sport.

Coates's appeal to increase the arsenal of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority comes after former Olympic cyclist Matt White admitted involvement in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

The life ban imposed on the seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong by the US Anti-Doping Agency relied on testimony from fellow riders in the absence of positive drug tests.

''I suggest that the government should again consider strengthening ASADA's powers to investigate allegations of doping practices by including the power to compel witnesses to attend and give evidence and to produce documents relevant to such investigations,'' Coates said.

His call came as ASADA announced a new memorandum of understanding with the Australian Crime Commission allowing the bodies to more efficiently share intelligence and work collaboratively in investigating doping allegations.

Coates, the Australian Olympic Committee president, noted that he had been pushing for greater powers for investigators to obtain evidence since before the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and repeated them when ASADA took over its role in 2005.

''AOC experience is that without the power to compel the giving of oral and documentary evidence, many allegations of ADRV's [anti-doping rule violations] cannot be properly investigated and prosecuted,'' the AOC said in a 2006 submission to the government.

The USADA investigation into Armstrong and his former team US Postal was given a huge boost by a federal grand jury inquiry that lasted about two years.

Although Armstrong was cleared of criminal charges in February, the information gathered during the investigation helped USADA pursue doping allegations surrounding the US Postal team and unearth what it called ''the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program sport has ever seen''.

The information included the statements of several of Armstrong's former teammates and staff members about the use of performance-enhancing drugs and also the use of blood transfusions. The evidence from ex-teammates indicated drug testing had failed to keep pace with the techniques used by drug cheats.

Coates was responding to comments by Sports Minister Kate Lundy, who said that the Australian government, through ASADA, was committed to protecting the health of athletes and eliminating doping. AAP

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