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Drugs law: UK law permits importation of steroids by athletes for 2012 Olympics

The UK Government has confirmed that the law which allows possession of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs will not be changed in time for the London Olympics.

The announcement raises the spectre that athletes could bring banned substances with them to London, where authorities would be powerless to intervene.

The legal anomaly has come to light after it was revealed that UK law is in this regard quite different from the law on possession of anabolic steroids in other former Olympic host countries, including Australia, Canada and China.

The law on the possession of anabolic steroids prohibits their trafficking. However, if an athlete were to bring a small quantity with them, then they could argue it was for personal use, and avoid any sanction.

The UK Government has said that it is serious about stamping out drug abuse at the Games, and sports law still prohibits any athlete from taking performance-enhancing drugs. The UK Government is applying to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to have any athlete caught abusing drugs at the Games face a minimum four-year ban from sport, or even a life ban, depending on the seriousness of the offence. The current WADA rules impose a two-year ban for steroids and other drugs such as EPO.

Hugh Robertson is the Olympics Minister.

"We are making a clear pitch for tougher sentences and urging the need for a universal sentencing policy," he said.

"We would like to see at least four years [ban], if not rather longer than that," he added.

A UK Anti-Doping Agency spokesman confirmed that athletes coming to the games would not be breaking the law by bringing small quantities of steroids for personal use.

"It is not a criminal offence for personal consumption for athletes in this country, but they will be dealt with under anti-doping law if they get caught with the drugs in their system," they said.

The International Olympic Committee will conduct some 5,000 random drugs tests during the two-week long Olympic Games. Of those 5,000 at least 20% will be blood samples.

Related links:
Read more on the story (The Telegraph)

Drugs law overview (FindLaw)

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