DRUGS IN SPORT: Irish seek powers to jail drug abusers

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The Independent Online
JOHN McDAID, the Irish Sports Minister, said yesterday that he is investigating the possibility of proposing laws to jail athletes found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs. Speaking at a seminar in Blackrock, Dublin, he said he had already discussed the idea with Ireland's attorney general.

"If I can find the means within Irish law, I will not hesitate to apply criminal sanctions including jail terms to those who contaminate sport with drugs," he said. "Drugs in sport is a political priority in Ireland and we will not hesitate to lead the way."

Drugs became an issue in Ireland in 1996 after allegations against Ireland's triple Olympic gold medal winning swimmer, Michelle Smith. In August this year, Fina, swimming's world governing body, found her guilty of tampering with a urine sample and she was banned for four years. She is currently appealing the ban.

The Irish Rugby Union was also embroiled in the drugs controversy last month when three players tested positive.

McDaid said the laws should provide real punishments for people who use or deal in prohibited substances. He said sportspeople who used drugs were driven by greed.

"These people to whom I am referring include not only athletes. It would have been impossible for the drug culture to take root if there were not collusion involving trainers, business mangers, medical teams and, yes, those who administer sport," he said. "There is a widespread perception that the drug culture in sport may be abetted even at very high levels in international sport.

"In a world where events have become ever more elaborate and expensive and the benefits become ever more lavish, the integrity of sport has become secondary."

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