China extends doping crackdown, criminalizes more offences

China's new laws governing doping offences will see a hard line being taken on those behind illegal doping activities.

China's new laws governing doping offences will see a hard line being taken on those behind illegal doping activities, including distributors, coaches, officials, and producers of banned substances.

The country's Supreme People's Court on Monday brought long-heralded criminal punishments for certain doping activities into law, as it announced judicial interpretations on the application of criminal law in handling cases related to doping, which will go into effect on January 1, 2020.

China Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) CEO Chen Zhiyu said one of the focuses of the change in legislation is to crack down on those behind the scenes, rather than simply punishing athletes.

"At the recent World Conference on Doping in Sport, the International Olympic Committee said the fight against doping needs governmental support. That's what China has been doing," said Chen on Tuesday, who is in Qingdao to attend the 2019 National Anti-Doping Law and Regulation Training session.

The changes are aimed at criminalizing such activities as the trafficking and illegal business operation of banned substances, and forcing, organizing, luring or cheating minors or people with disabilities into using performance-enhancing drugs. The production and sale of banned drugs will also be subject to criminal punishments.

According to the new interpretations, government officials could spend time behind bars if they abuse their power or are negligent in their managerial role of doping control.

China's move shines a light on a prevailing problem in the fight against doping.

At the World Conference on Doping in Sport, IOC president Thomas Bach pointed out that guilty athletes are not the only culprits, as they are "supported and sometimes even driven to or forced into doping by a secretive network which may include coaches, agents, dealers, managers, officials from government or sports organizations, doctors, physiotherapists or others."

But when it comes to sanctioning those people, "the power of sports organizations is extremely limited." Bach said.

A regulation released by China's State General Administration of Sport in 1998 mentioned "executive punishments" on officials in addition to bans and fines for coaches. The 2014 Anti-Doping Management Regulation of China introduced punishments for government officials ranging from warnings to dismissals.

"However, sporting regulations only have power on people inside the circle and are not powerful enough for deterrence, so it is necessary to bring in criminal punishments to fill in the blanks of the current anti-doping legal system," said Chen.

Chen added that the judicial interpretations are "profoundly important in China's fight against doping."

"China has made considerable progress in cracking down on doping, but we have been aware of the lack of sufficient punishments on severe doping rule violations," he said.

"The new judicial interpretations can now curb doping at its roots, and will be a force to protect public health," Chen said.

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