DOPING could be criminalised as part of government attempts to crackdown on corruption in sport, it has been revealed.

The UK government would be open to the criminalisation of doping, according to Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, potentially putting it on a collision course with the UK’s anti-doping agency, which is opposed to such measures.

The world of athletics has been rocked by repeated scandals, ultimately resulting in the indefinite suspension of the All-Russia Athletics Federation by the chief athletics’ governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations.

On December 10, an 18-year-old UK semi-professional cyclist, admitted to having used EPO, the banned blood-boosting drug employed in hospitals to help throughout the treatment of anaemia.

In January 2013, the retired American cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted to doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, and was stripped of his seven Tour de France wins as well as being banned from sport for life.

Jamie Quarry, a British Commonwealth ambassador from Manchester, believes that tougher sentences earlier on would act as a deterrent for people to take drugs.

“Now we are at the point where we are talking about making it a criminal offence, I think these are some of the things that should have been in place a lot earlier. For me, it’s one of those areas whereby it took a long time to get to grips with it and as a result anti-doping agencies have made it very difficult for sentences to really be a deterrent.”

Quarry, who won gold in decathlon at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, says it is difficult for sports such as athletics to secure funding now after being tarnished with doping accusations.

“Unfortunately one or two high-profile names have tarnished the sport. They are in it for a very different reason and you just have to trust you are doing it for the right reasons. The difficulty now, for those sports that have been tarnished, is being able to secure funding, which impacts on people who want to come into the sport.”

He added: “We have reached a point where something has to be done in order to really try and get hold of this before it escalates even further.”

Sports minister Tracey Crouch said the measure would be considered as part of a new strategy that will promote sporting integrity.

Speaking to Sky Sports the MP explained: “We actually have very strong anti-doping procedures in place, and that’s what makes the UK Anti-Doping Agency one of the best in the world.

“But we have to look at criminalisation to see whether or not that’s something we can add to the toolbox of combating corruption in sport.”

Doping is already illegal in many European countries, including Italy and France.

The Government is also transforming the way it funds grassroots sport following to deliver the legacy of a sustained increase in participation after the 2012 London Olympics.

By Emma Pearce

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