The issue assumed immediate international significance when it became apparent that Britain's women may be banned from next month's World Cup final at Crystal Palace.
The Home Office, backed by the Heritage Department, responded swiftly yesterday to opposition pressure by ordering an immediate review on the law on steroids.
Michael Forsyth, Home Office Minister of State, said: 'It is an offence to sell anabolic steroids. What is at issue is whether it should be made an offence to possess them with a view to supplying others.'
The Home Office moves follow the revelation on Thursday that five athletes had tested positive for use of illegal drugs.
Officials confirmed yesterday that jail terms of up to two years for possession and five years for the supply of anabolic steroids were being considered. At present only sale of the drugs is illegal. It is understood that the improper use of steroids would be put in the same class for legal purposes as amphetamines, barbiturates and other so-called class C drugs.
Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat sport spokesman and a former British Athletics Team captain, has already introduced private members' bills to include steroids under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
Mr Campbell said yesterday: 'Education and random testing are not sufficient. Anabolic steroids must be brought within existing drugs legislation.'
British and international athletics officials combined yesterday to expedite the decision on whether Britain's women can compete in the World Cup.
The Portuguese drug testing laboratory which processed the positive sample given by the British 800 metres runner Diane Modahl has been told to bring forward its mandatory second test on the sample to early next week.
If Modahl is banned the punishment will be retrospective, invalidating her win for the British team in the European Cup which earned them World Cup qualification.
Meanwhile British athletics officials are demanding an explanation from their Russian counterparts over their apparent knowledge of Modahl's positive drug test nearly a month before the British Athletic Federation was informed.
Russian officials told British journalists last month that their women's team would gain a place in the World Cup final because a drug finding would disqualify the British team.Reuse content