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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 February 2007, 14:35 GMT
Drug cheats 'need four-year ban'
Drug sample
Proven drugs cheats should return some of their earnings, MPs say
UK athletes caught using drugs should be banned for at least four years in an effort to clean up sport ahead of the 2012 London Olympics, MPs have said.

The science and technology committee also said British competitors should have to enter an international event in the year before the Games.

This would increase the chances of catching drug users, its report said.

Committee chairman Phil Willis said a major doping scandal in 2012 would be a "national humiliation".

The report - Human Enhancement Technologies in Sport - said proven cheats should have to pay back all the money earned since their last clean test.

'Ridiculous'

Under current guidelines, sporting bodies can impose sanctions ranging from a warning to a lifetime ban, with a two-year ban the standard punishment for a first doping offence.

In evidence last year, Dr Richard Budgett, chief medical officer for the British Olympic Association told the committee that "many of us in sport feel it should be four years" as it was "ridiculous if someone can come back and compete in the very next games having been caught the first time".

We must not risk turning an occasion for national pride into one of embarrassment and disgrace
Phil Willis, MP

The MPs called for more "sophisticated" detection methods, such as checking blood samples as well as urine.

Banned athletes should have to reveal sources of doping before they are allowed to return to competition, the report said.

Mr Willis, a Liberal Democrat MP, said: "Sport matters to people and any scandal associated with British sportsmen or women resonates way beyond the immediate sporting world. It can be a matter of national humiliation.

"The 2012 Olympics have given us the perfect opportunity to showcase the best of British sporting talent. We must not risk turning an occasion for national pride into one of embarrassment and disgrace.

"That is why the government and the international sporting bodies concerned must do much more to identify and prevent doping scandals now."

New substances

Greater emphasis should also be paid to ensuring that all drugs allowed for therapeutic use are given on the grounds of real medical need, the committee said.

An agency separate from sporting bodies and UK Sport - which currently oversees anti-doping measures - should be set up to test athletes, it added.

This should also monitor and evaluate potential new illegal substances and methods as they are developed.

John Scott, UK Sport's director of drug-free sport, said: "We all want an Olympic and Paralympic Games in London which will be remembered for the right reasons, and not blighted by the spectre of doping.

"I think we are in a healthy position to achieve this.

"The recommendations made in the report supplement the raft of initiatives already underway to provide an anti-doping programme which I am confident will allow those athletes who choose to compete cleanly to do so on a level playing field."

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said it would "work closely with UK Sport to consider the recommendations made and respond in due course".


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