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  1. ITV Report

Doping will not be a criminal offence, sports minister Tracey Crouch says

Drugs cheats in British sport will not be jailed, sports minister Tracey Crouch has said after a review of the UK's anti-doping rules.

Recent scandals have led to calls from some quarters for the UK to follow the example of Australia, France and Italy in criminalising doping.

Most drug-testing agencies, however, do not want doping to be criminalised, as they believe getting convictions will be difficult and sporting sanctions are more relevant.

The sports minister said an extensive review was conducted into the issue and found that criminalising doping could make it tougher to investigate.

We looked into this very carefully, and conducted an extensive review into the issue around criminalisation and we actually genuinely believe that the system we have here in the UK is one of the most robust systems in the world.

We feel that the idea of criminalisation would change the burden of proof, would make it actually harder to investigate these incidents and that actually you could end up with a lesser punishment if you went through the criminal procedures.

So we genuinely think that the system we have in place is the right one.

– Tracey Crouch

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and others have warned against criminalisation, because countries which have made it an offence have struggled to prosecute under the 'beyond reasonable doubt' standard of proof - sport, just as in civil law, uses the 'balance of probabilities' standard in anti-doping cases.

While doping will not become a criminal offence in the UK, Crouch does want to give UKAD more powers to tackle cheats and their enablers.

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has said doping will not be a criminal offence.

UKAD has also persuaded the sports minister of the need for a review of therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs), the 'sick notes' doctors can give athletes who need otherwise banned substances for proven medical conditions.

"We are trying to make sure that the UK anti-doping agency is the most robust, the most efficient and effective agency in the world," Crouch said.

In terms of the issues around TUEs, clearly there was a lot of public interest in the system.

"We want to make sure, through a review by WADA which we're calling for today, that we have the confidence in that system going forward."

TUEs have been in the headlines ever since Russian hacking group the Fancy Bears stole medical data from WADA last year and revealed which banned drugs dozens of leading athletes were taking, with British cycling star Sir Bradley Wiggins' use of a powerful corticosteroid before his 2012 Tour de France victory being the most notable case.

  • Crouch 'not impressed' with FA Chairman Clarke's comments

Meanwhile the sports minister took aim at Greg Clarke, saying the FA chairman "tarnished" his success in forcing through governance reforms at the Football Association with recent comments about gay athletes.

Former basketball star John Amaechi, one of Britain's most high-profile gay athletes and now a leading psychologist, revealed on Friday that Football Association chairman Clarke visited his office in March to discuss how the FA could persuade gay male players to come out while still in the game.

Amaechi told him this was the wrong strategy and the FA needed to do much more to promote diversity and equality throughout the organisation but Clarke said that would get him the sack and the government would never intervene.

FA Chairman Greg Clarke Credit: PA

Asked if Clarke was right about the government not stepping in, she said he was "wrong" and, when pressed on what the government might do, she warned "he'll have to wait and see".

Until last week, the minister has been one of Clarke's biggest supporters, as he managed to persuade the FA to implement her new governance code - a set of rules on decision-making and diversity all sports organisations in receipt of public money must meet by the end of this month.

"I think the whole Sampson affair and other events have really tarnished what it is the FA were trying to achieve," Crouch said.

On Amaechi's point about FA inaction on homophobia, Crouch agreed, saying she has been asking the FA "to do more" for some time.

"Anybody involved in football should feel confident enough to be able to come out," she said.