Athletes fail 75% more drugs tests

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More British athletes than ever are failing steroid drug tests, the Sports Council of the United Kingdom said yesterday. It said there had been a 75 per cent increase in the number of failed tests for muscle- building anabolic drugs.

Michele Verroken, director of ethics and anti-doping at the Sports Council, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the number of steroid cases had increased over the last year from 15 to 27 cases of anabolic steroids, although the total number of drug findings had remained steady.

She said the findings showed that some people appeared to be misusing drugs even on the day of a competition. If athletes felt they could take the drugs because of an insufficient testing programme, sport must look carefully at deterrents, she said.

"If we are reducing penalties, as appears to be the trend, then the sports federations may have to ask their athletes what really will stop this misuse among the few."

She said athletes appeared to want those who misused drugs to be thrown out of sport.

The Sports Council wanted to ask the sports governing bodies about the problem. "It's going to be a difficult matter for some of them because they feel under great pressure from abroad, where we have seen, certainly in Germany, civil legislation restricting the length of bans. But in this country we have seen the greatest commitment for drug-free sport, so why not?"

Ms Verroken said that when all Britain's Olympic athletes were tested before the Atlanta Games last year, the results were 100 per cent negative.