(Reuters) - The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is considering a blanket ban on countries whose athletes regularly dope in the wake of a series of damaging blows for the sport in recent days, according to its president Craig Reedie.
He told CNN in an interview that such a deterrent could be "a pretty blunt instrument" in the war on drugs but he was waiting on a report from his independent commission before deciding whether to push forward with the strategy.
The world athletics' governing body (IAAF) has come under fire for not following up suspicious test results from more than 800 athletes between 2001 and 2012, based on an investigation by Britain's Sunday Times and German broadcaster ARD/WDR.
"The fact that this is being discussed as a potential sanction is not entirely unhelpful," Scot Reedie, 74, told CNN about implementing a blanket ban on countries with offending athletes.
"It's a very, very serious sanction because it tends to be a pretty blunt instrument. Maybe that's required. I'm not sure. It's never been done before.
"I would want to wait until I see what my expert commission says about this."
Reed said no country had ever been banned from a multi-category competition such as the Olympics over an offending athlete but that there was a precedent for nations being suspended by the ruling body in an individual sport.
"The sport has turned around and said, 'At the moment, your record isn't good enough so we don't want you coming to our events for a period of years," Reed explained.
"It's happened very infrequently but I think it's been effective."
On Sunday, the British newspaper and ARD/WDR reported that a 2011 survey has revealed that up to a third of the world's top competitors admitted using banned performance-enhancing techniques.
The doping allegations are the latest to have rocked the sport in the run-up to the 15th world championships which start in Beijing on Aug. 22.
The authors of the study, which involved interviews with 1,800 athletes at the 2011 worlds in South Korea, were told to sign a confidentiality agreement a month after the information had been collected and analyzed, the newspaper said.
The IAAF has since initiated disciplinary action against 28 athletes after retesting samples from the 2005 and 2007 world championships with new technology that can uncover previously undetectable substances.
However, the IAAF has came under heavy fire from the authors of the 2011 study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Tuebingen in Germany and leaked to The Sunday Times and ARD/WDR.
Reacting to the latest accusations in a statement, the IAAF said it "had never vetoed" publication of the survey and understood it had twice been rejected for publication in a scientific journal.
It also questioned the validity of the research.
While WADA can lobby for the introduction of a blanket ban on countries, it cannot itself impose such a suspension and Reedie conceded that WADA still lacked sufficient resources to tackle the problem of doping in sport.
"People who wish to cheat have different and more opportunities to cheat than we have to resolve it in conventional ways," he said.
"We don't have enough money, but we're realistic. We're now up to roughly $30 million a year as a budget. I think we have become pretty efficient at doing this much as we've been able to do within the restrictions that we have in budget terms.
"But, yes, a little bit more help would be warmly welcomed."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Both and Ken Ferris)