Officials to crack down on pharmacies

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 July, 2007, 12:00am

Mainland authorities have mobilised a raft of government agencies ahead of next year's Beijing Games in an attempt to spare the country a re-run of past humiliations caused by doping.

The State Food and Drug Administration plans nationwide inspections of pharmacies and drug wholesalers over the next few months, especially those operating in Olympic host cities, to ensure they do not sell performance-enhancing drugs.

That move is expected to spearhead an unprecedented joint anti-doping campaign by the drug watchdog, customs authorities, the ministries of health, commerce and industry administration, and the national sports governing body, which was once charged with dealing with the problem single-handedly.

The Beijing Municipal Drug Administration will carry out a month-long inspection next month of more than 3,400 pharmacies and 270-plus wholesale companies.

Beijing drug safety official Hu Meifang said there were also plans for monthly inspections before the Olympics.

'We have conducted regular clean-ups targeting performance-enhancing drugs specifically since 2006, but will further step up the efforts as the Olympics draw nearer,' Hu said.

Zhao Jian, chief of the anti-doping commission under the Chinese Olympic Committee, said tighter controls on the distribution of banned drugs was an important part of the anti-doping cause.

'Sanctions on offending athletes alone can't solve the problem no matter how many tests you carry out,' Zhao said.

Zhao starred in the commission's investigations of high-profile doping outbreaks in recent years, including the drama last August surrounding the Anshan Junior Athletics School in Liaoning.

EPO blood-boosters, testosterone and steroids were confiscated in the raid and, more shockingly, a number of junior athletes were also caught injecting the drugs.

'The coaches obtained these drugs from wholesalers, who are only allowed to sell them to hospitals as prescribed drugs,' Zhao said.

'Our investigators even found these drugs on display in regular pharmacies in Anshan, which is against the law and underscores the urgency of the need to address the distribution loopholes.'