Dopers not to face jail, says British sports minister

Tracey Crouch sided with the majority of drug-testing agencies who believe in applying more sporting sanctions as obtaining guilty verdicts through courts is very difficult.

Sports minister Tracey Crouch (right)... “The strong consensus is that [criminalising doping] would not necessarily aid the fight against drug cheats.”   -  Getty Images

Britain will not follow the likes of Australia, France or Italy in criminalising sports doping offenders, the country’s sports minister Tracey Crouch announced on Tuesday.

The Conservative lawmaker sided with the majority of drug-testing agencies who believe in applying more sporting sanctions as obtaining guilty verdicts through the courts is very difficult. Crouch's decision comes after a review of the United Kingdom's anti-doping rules.

"The UK is one of the leading nations in the world in anti-doping with robust testing, information sharing and investigation processes in place," she said. "It was right that we looked into the case for criminalising doping. However, the strong consensus is that it would not necessarily aid the fight against drug cheats.

‘Not complacent’

"We are not complacent, though, which is why there are recommendations in the review that I urge the anti-doping authorities, sports governing bodies and health organisations to consider to further strengthen our approach."

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) are among those bodies to warn against criminalisation. They argue that countries which have made it an offence have struggled to prosecute under the 'beyond reasonable doubt' standard of proof. Sport, just as in civil law, uses the 'balance of probabilities' standard in anti-doping cases.

TUEs under scrutiny

UKAD has also convinced Crouch to review the rules governing the controversial use of therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs). Former cycling great Bradley Wiggins benefitted from TUEs during his 2012 Tour de France triumph administering a strong corticosteroid for treating hay fever.

UKAD wants to tighten the rules around the initial awarding of TUEs, how they are monitored and the amounts of the prescribed drug that is allowed.