BEIJING China is clamping down on producers and peddlers of banned doping substances ahead of August's Beijing Olympics but targeting online distributors is proving problematic, a government official said on Wednesday.
China was embroiled in a series of doping scandals in the late 1980s and early 1990s but has vowed to stamp the practice out before hosting the Olympics this year.
"The Chinese government has been more and more aggressive on anti-doping, especially since the second half of 2007," Wu Zhen, deputy commissioner of the State Food and Drug Administration told a news conference.
"We are determined to take the opportunity of the Olympic Games to reduce doping in China," he added.
Wu said investigations, both open and covert, carried out over the last year had discovered 151 enterprises producing or distributing anabolic steroids, Erythropotein (EPO) or human growth hormone (HGH).
They had been punished, Wu said, some having their licenses to trade stopped.
One company in Jiangxi province was found to have traded about 1 million yuan's ($145,000) worth of banned performance enhancers on the internet without a license.
The company was fined 800,000 yuan ($116,100) and the "person responsible" jailed for seven years, not for selling banned substances but for illegal trading.
Other traders on the Internet have proved harder to track down.
"Online sales through websites is one of our major tasks," Wu added.
"Our investigation found 321 ... but websites are very flexible. We often find the addresses and names published on the site are false and some were overseas."
After a U.S. Justice Department steroids crackdown late last year, China was identified as the source of much of the international trade in the raw materials used to make the substances.
Wu took objection to reports that China was a "large-scale" exporter of illegal substances.
"We don't actually export a lot of manufactured drugs, certainly not to Europe or the Americas," he said.
"Exporting the raw materials is not illegal. If the raw materials we export are subsequently made into illegal substances, then it's not our responsibility."
(Editing by Nick Macfie)
(For more stories visit our multimedia website "Road to Beijing" here; and see our blog at blogs.reuters.com/china)