By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — Irish Sports Minister Dr. Jim McDaid says he intends to introduce measures to prosecute athletes who take performance-enhancing drugs.
"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," McDaid said.
Speaking in Dublin at a Drugs in Sport convention organized by the Olympic Council of Ireland, McDaid also proposed that the introduction of blood testing in addition to urine tests which are common practice.
However, Dr. Wade Exum, the director of US Olympic Committee’s Drug Control program, took issue with McDaid by voicing his opposition to both the criminalization of drug abusers and to blood testing.
"I don’t agree with criminalizing athletes who use drugs," Exum said. Substance abuse is a medical phenomenon rather than a criminal act. I also adamantly oppose blood testing. I don’t think it adds anything to what we are doing. For me blood testing is a nightmare. Blood is considered a biologically contagious substance."
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But in another twist to the debate — proving a diversity of opinion among the experts — Professor David Cowan, the head of the Drug Control Center at King’s College, London, was adamant that blood testing was both inevitable and necessary.
"By the 2000 Olympics, unless we are testing with blood, then we haven’t got a chance," Cowan insisted.