BEIJING — Chinese officials said Wednesday that licenses had been revoked for three drugmakers, including one that sent human growth hormone to the United States, and that they had punished 125 other companies, mostly pharmacies, for making, selling or distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
The move was heralded as evidence that China was determined to live up to its promise to host a clean Olympics.
Officials also challenged claims by the United States that China accounted for 99 percent of the illicit performance-enhancing drugs in the largest drug-enforcement action in United States history, known as Operation Raw Deal, last year. The United States had asked China to investigate 37 drug manufacturers.
“If China’s ingredients were used to produce performance-enhancing drugs and illegally sold after being legally exported, the importing countries should bear the responsibility,” Wu Zhen, the deputy head of the State Food and Drug Administration, said at a news conference. “Most of such products were exported with company contracts, export licenses and warrants from the importing countries, and their use was clearly stated.”
Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, which led Operation Raw Deal, said in a telephone interview from D.E.A. headquarters in Alexandria, Va.: “I’m not going to get in a back-and-forth. It’s too sensitive. We’re talking about China here. We didn’t indict these companies. We provided the information to China, asking them to look into it, and apparently they have.”
Last year, the D.E.A. said the United States government had not approved the imports and was counting on China to stop the flow at the source. A D.E.A. statement had said: “D.E.A. successfully attacked the illegal steroid industry at every level of its distribution network — from the manufacturers in China who supply the raw materials, to the traffickers in the United States who market the deadly doses.”
One of the drugmakers that China named Wednesday was GeneScience Pharmaceutical, which is based in northern China and run by an American-educated executive. Last September, a federal grand jury in Rhode Island indicted the company for illegally distributing millions of dollars in human growth hormones in the United States. The company had denied the allegation, but its American agent pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to distribute H.G.H.
In making its announcement Wednesday, a senior drug agency official in Beijing said the agency had revoked the GeneScience license during a nationwide crackdown begun over the past year.
Chinese officials said that they checked cities that are participating in the Olympics, and that most areas were in compliance.
“Inspections show Chinese pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers have basically reached the requirements for doping control,” Wu said, according to Xinhua, the state-run news agency.
The drug agency also said one unnamed person had been given a seven-year prison sentence for illegally distributing drugs.
The vast majority of the companies punished were retail pharmacies, the government said.
The government did not release a full list of companies involved in making and distributing illegal drugs but said they would all be punished according to the law, and that stiffer penalties would be meted out on companies that illegally distribute performance enhancing drugs ahead of or during the Olympics, which open in Beijing on Aug. 8.
Of the 37 company dossiers referred to China from the D.E.A. after Operation Raw Deal, Wu said that investigation by China’s Ministry of Public Security showed 13 had exported such ingredients but most of them were doing legal business, some with the permission of the D.E.A. Among the remaining 24, he said 17 were not registered and provided false information, making further investigation impossible.
“We welcome objective coverage and international supervision on China’s antidoping work,” Wu said. “We won’t accept, we even firmly oppose, irresponsible and distorting reports.”
Beijing is making an effort to show that it is fighting sports doping and investigating claims that China has become a major center for the manufacture and export of performance-enhancing drugs.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, China struggled with a series of doping scandals involving some of its top athletes. But since then, China has produced some world-class athletes with only a few doping scandals. Last November, China created the China Anti-Doping Agency.