By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is to bring in legislation that will mean individuals found guilty of doping are punished under the country's criminal code, according to Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.
"We have taken the decision to introduce this special law to make doping, and those attempting to take performance-enhancing drugs, a criminal offence," Mutko told reporters on Tuesday.
He said that on Friday the Government had backed a plan to bring in the ruling through the Russian State Duma, the upper legislative chamber.
Mutko declined to give a time frame for the law to be implemented or details of the expected punishments.
The TASS news agency said that, depending on the offence, those found breaking the law could be fined a maximum of three million rubles ($45,051) or jailed for up to five years.
Russia was suspended from international athletics in November after an investigation uncovered damning evidence of widespread doping and corruption.
The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) said on Tuesday that it had been informed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that re-checks of samples from the 2008 Beijing Games showed 14 of the country's athletes had returned positive tests.
"We need to create an anti-doping system which everyone has faith in, in order to not return to Sochi (2014), Beijing or London (2012)," said Mutko.
BILLIONS OF DOLLARS
"We are spending billions of dollars on sport. When investing such vast sums of money there is no reason for us to hide cheats, whether they are sportsmen or coaches, who are doping and win a medal. This is not part of our philosophy and or policy."
The IAAF, the governing body of athletics, will decide on June 17 if Moscow has done enough to clean up its act and whether to allow its track and field competitors to go to the Rio Olympics in August.
"I do not see any major reasons why our athletes should not be allowed to compete at the Olympics. I believe the punishments for doping should always be at an individual level," said Mutko.
"Those sportsmen who have a chance to go to Rio will undergo at least three additional doping tests. This is an unprecedented check. I hope the IAAF will take into account the efforts that Russia is taking."
Mutko ruled out the possibility of other Russian sportsmen and sportswomen competing in Brazil under the IOC's flag.
"This is legally impossible. If Russia is competing in the Olympics in Rio then it will compete under its own flag," he said.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)