The Japan Association of Athletics Federations said Thursday it is looking at stricter controls on iron injections which can enhance the performance of long-distance runners.

The JAAF raised the likelihood of making the injection of iron drugs, which are given by doctors to treat anemia, "prohibited in principle" starting next spring.

The drugs are currently allowed for medical reasons and there are no penalties for their use.

Under the proposed guidelines, the JAAF would urge athletes being treated for anemia to consider oral drugs rather than injections where possible.

According to the JAAF, doctors have administered injections to athletes at the urging of coaches without adequate medical assessment.

At a news conference, JAAF executive director Mitsugi Ogata said the association would institute an education program aimed at coaches.

"More than anything, it's about improving the judgement of coaches. The education will be carried out properly," Ogata said.

The JAAF said it had discussed the issue with athletics bodies including the National High School Physical Education Federation.

From next year, it will ask schools participating in the Kyoto national high school ekiden relay to conduct blood tests and provide results. The JAAF will cover the cost of testing.

In cases of medical use, the JAAF may require declarations stating the reason.

Iron drug injections can improve the performance of endurance athletes by increasing the number of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in the blood.

Although it is not stipulated as doping, it is "close (enough) that it is not accepted by the sports world or society at large," Ogata said.

Raising blood iron levels also carries the risk of adverse health effects from accumulation in the liver and heart.

The JAAF in April 2016 released a protocol urging athletes with anemia to refrain from resorting to iron injections too easily.