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MELBOURNE, March 1 (Reuters) - The World Anti-Doping Authority's prescribed testing is "ineffective" at catching drug cheats and should be supplemented by criminal penalties for athletes who refuse to cooperate with investigations, Australia's Olympic chief has said.
Australian lawmakers are weighing proposed law changes that would boost the powers of the country's national anti-doping agency, including giving it the authority to fine people up to A$5,100 ($5,200) for withholding information in an investigation.
Australian Olympic Committee chief John Coates has said the civil penalty would not be enough, however, and has pushed lawmakers to consider adding the threat of jail time in the proposed amendments.
"There is a case for us to acknowledge that the testing that WADA prescribes, and that is carried out in this country and around the world, is ineffective at catching drug cheats," Coates told a senate hearing in Canberra on Friday.
"But WADA isn't in a position to tell you what to legislate.
"I think (the proposed bill) is a very big improvement as drafted with the civil penalties, but I certainly think there's a case for having criminal penalties."
Australia has been rocked by a government report released last month that found "widespread" doping among professional and amateur athletes Down Under, with the supply of banned drugs fuelled by organised crime.
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) announced it was conducting probes into the country's two most popular football codes, Australian Rules and the National Rugby League, in the wake of the report.
The proposed changes outlined in the 'Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2013' have been described by the country's top athletes' association as "troubling" and premature.
"The Bill would grant powers to ASADA which would be insufficiently defined under the amended legislation and would infringe human rights and principles of best legislative practice," the Australian Athletes' Alliance said in a submission.
Lawyers have also criticised the bill's compulsory disclosure amendment as violating a person's right not to "self-incriminate".
The AOC has been vocal in its hard line against drug cheats and will make athletes competing at next year's Winter Games in Sochi sign statutory declarations saying they have no history of doping.
The doping crackdown Down Under has sparked heated criticism from some top athletes and sports pundits, who have denounced the investigations as politically-motivated witchhunts that have, as yet, failed to unearth any offenders.
($1 = 0.9768 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Patrick Johnston)