English 400-metre runner Martyn Rooney would back custodial sentences for athletes found to have violated anti-doping regulations.
The 31-year-old backed the introduction of tougher measures for those in sport exposed as drug cheats as he appeared in Glasgow this week to promote the first multi-sport European Championships that the city will host in conjunction with Berlin in August.
Two years ago Rooney was retrospectively awarded a bronze medal from the 4x400m relay at the Beijing Olympics after WADA’s standard retesting of the sample given by Russian athlete Denis Alexeev following his team’s third-place run revealed the presence of a banned steroid.
Rooney has joined the Athlete First agency which pushes for all available measures to be pursued to ensure the sport is as clean as possible. Rooney believes this should include the severest kind of punishment in the form of jail sentences – as is being pushed for in the United States.
“Fraud is fraud. If you’ve cheated, you’ve taken performances away from other people, then it’s just the same as stealing isn’t it?” said Rooney, pictured. “Jail time, I would never be against that, it’s strict and it kind of makes it serious to some people. Like some people take a four-year ban but if you rupture your Achilles that could be your career over. I think it needs to be aggressive, it needs to be really something that kids can go ‘look, it’s not worth it’.
“[In 2008], we knew we were racing against guys who were cheating, 100 per cent. We had raced them earlier in the year and they’d ran like five seconds slower. It’s a tough situation. All you can do on the day is try to run your best and hope the authorities bring it around. The philosophy of Athletes First is about trying to promote the clean athletes within the sports and give them the best opportunities to promote themselves.”
Rooney would welcome stepping up the in- and out-of-competition testing, but recognises this would involve a level of funding that just isn’t there for a WADA he believes is without question upping its game against dopers. “I’d love to see as much testing as possible,” he said. “If you’re clean you’re open to it, you’re like cool yeah test me, no problem. It might be a bit of hassle at the time but it’s also how much it costs to do it, but I think the IAAF and IOC are trying their best to promote clean sport and that is a major part of it, testing as much as possible.
“Athletics has led the way, they’re not scared – they banned Russia. Who bans a country? So they’re not scared to catch people and I think that is the way they have to keep going, just be aggressive with it.”