Thursday, November 19, 1998 Published at 16:04 GMT
French doping crackdown
Tour de France drug scandals made doping a national issue
The French National Assembly has approved a tough new law to combat the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport.
Suppliers of illegal drugs face up to seven years in jail, and there will be regular tests for all competitors.
The measure was originally passed by the Senate in May but was stiffened after this summer's Tour de France cycle-race was affected by drugs scandals.
The French government hopes the law will set a new standard on fighting drugs in sport.
"I refuse to accept the idea that drug taking is the price to pay to reach the highest sporting levels," says French Sports Minister Marie-George Buffet.
Ms Buffet said she would give details of the law to the next meeting of the International Olympic Committee in an attempt to promote a more coherent international policy.
But correspondents say it may deter some foreign competitors from appearing in France.
Pressure on sports federations
The new law requires sports federations to show they are acting to eradicate the use of illegal drugs, and punishes those found prescribing, supplying, encouraging or using them.
It creates a strong doping prevention committee, which can impose penalties and stiffen sanctions when it believes sports federations have failed to crack down.
The Ministry of Sports will have the right to raid premises and order athletes to undergo medical examinations.
Sports federations must also discipline offenders and make an official report on infractions.
The government will only issue sports licenses to authorities with a certificate showing they are fighting doping.
Doping became a national issue in the country when the Tour de France was hit by the worst drugs scandal in its history.
The top flight Festina team was thrown out of the Tour after team masseur Willy Voetwas was arrested when French customs officials discovered performance-enhancing drugs in his team car, four days before the start of the race.
In the end, one third of all teams in the race either withdrew or were expelled because of illegal drug abuse.
But other sports have also been hit by drug scandals, and officials worry about its use by very young athletes.
The French daily Liberation said onTuesday that an internal report from France's National Center for Scientific Research had identified widespread doping in many French sports, particularly among adolescents and at small sports clubs.