Dope pushers snared in mainland crackdown

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 June, 2008, 12:00am

The mainland's dragnet to catch and punish drug producers and peddlers has already yielded a bumper haul, but online distributors continue to escape the government's aggressive drive to ensure the cleanest Games on record, mainland officials said yesterday.

The zero-tolerance approach has seen scores of investigations carried out over the last year, targeting makers and wholesalers of illegal substances such as anabolic steroids, erythropoietin (EPO) and human growth hormone (HGH), and 151 enterprises had been exposed, said the deputy commissioner of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), Wu Zhen.

Most have had their licenses revoked and been forced to close, while a senior staffer at one distributing company was jailed for seven years.

'We are determined to use the opportunity of the Olympic Games to reduce doping in China,' said Wu.

The mainland is eager to change the nation's reputation as a country that mass-produces drug cheats ahead of the August event.

The big sweep is also sending a message to mainland athletes and coaches who may be tempted to use banned substances to think again.

One company in Jiangxi province traded about 1 million yuan (HK$1.13 million) worth of banned performance enhancers on the internet without a licence. It was fined 800,000 yuan and the 'person responsible' imprisoned for seven years.

While the policy will likely draw praise from the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), many online dope marketeers are still eluding the drug busters, admitted Wu.

'Investigation found 321 offending sites, but websites are flexible. We often find the addresses and names published on the site are false and some were based overseas,' he said.

Wu took exception to claims that China was a 'large-scale' exporter of illegal substances - a label that has stuck after a US Justice Department steroids crackdown last year identified the mainland as the source of much of the international trade in the raw materials used to make the substances.