The French government on Wednesday moved to toughen anti-doping legislation ahead of this summer's Tour de France.
Members of Parliament adopted a new law which penalises the possession and trafficking of doping products in sport with prison sentences and fines.
Under the new measures offenders will receive up of five years in jail and a 75,000-euro fine, when it relates to drug trafficking, explained French Minister for Sport Bernard Laporte. The penalty will be increased to seven years in prison and a fine of 150,000 euros when the offence is committed as part of an organised group or against a minor.
The sentence will comprise a year in prison and a 3,750-euro fine when the offence is committed by a sports person for his personal use, Laporte said.
"At present, possession as well as other actions characterising trafficking - production, transport, importation and exportation of doping products - can't be suppressed," he said.
Products which were justified medically will not be included, he added.
Former France rugby union coach Laporte was however forced to defend his first bill since joining the government last October amid claims by the opposition that the measures were being pushed through in haste before the Tour de France.
The world's most famous cycling race has been marked by a large number of doping scandals in recent years. Spaniard Alberto Contador's victory last year was shrouded with suspicion even though he was cleared after being named in the Operation Puerto blood-doping scandal in Spain.
Race leader Michael Rasmussen of Denmark was withdrawn by his team for lying about his whereabouts for off-season testing and Kazakh rider Alexander Vinokourov tested positive for blood-doping.
It is hoped that the new law will help France bring into line with the world anti-doping code in a bid to fight against drug trafficking.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008