Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond wants athletes who cheat by using banned drugs to face criminal charges for defrauding the public and their sponsors.
LeMond also told the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that athletes who confess or come forward with information that could undo doping networks should receive more lenient punishment, balancing the benefit of people coming clean with the need to penalize cheaters.
"I believe in severe penalties, possibly even life bans. But you can't penalize everybody, or no one will come forward," said LeMond, adding that athletes who cooperate should get a second chance, but under a probationary period of intense scrutiny.
The American cyclist made the remarks on Monday as a guest of WADA's Foundation board, at a time when the doping agency is considering tougher sanctions for athletes found guilty of doping.
As WADA reviews its global anti-doping code, which sets out common rules and sanctions for all sports, the International Association of Athletics Federations has proposed doubling the standard penalty for a doping violation from a two-year to a four-year suspension.
Athletes want strong sanctions, WADA executive committee and athlete committee member Rania Elwani reminded the board.
"Athletes are responsible to make sure they get nothing wrong in their system," she said.
LeMond said doping was one of the reasons he left the sport "with a bad taste in my mouth."