Lifetime bans proposed for sport's drug users

Governing body eyes zero-tolerance policy

Track And Field

October 23, 2003|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

If the leaders of USA Track and Field get their way, athletes who use banned drugs could be barred from the sport for life.

Craig Masback, the chief executive officer of the sport's national governing body, yesterday announced the zero-tolerance proposal, which will be considered at USA Track and Field's annual meetings in December.

Masback said fines of up to $100,000 also will be proposed. He called for a summit in Washington with the major sports leagues to discuss doping issues. He said track and field will encourage athletes and coaches to be whistle-blowers and will create an outreach program to spread an anti-doping message,

"The essential part of the statement," Masback said, "is that if you cheat, your career is over."

Masback said four American athletes tested positive at June's national championships for tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG, the designer steroid that has been traced to a California lab at the core of sports' latest doping scandal.

Three of the four competed at the world championships in August, but none earned medals. British sprinter Dwain Chambers, a member of a 400-meter relay team that finished second at the worlds, yesterday became the first athlete to admit to testing positive for THG.

USA Track and Field's strongest proposal would create the possibility of a lifetime ban. The current penalty for a first steroid offense is a two-year ban.

"This is a historic opportunity," Masback said, "but it has to be twinned with the admission that we haven't done everything we could have in the past. Whatever we were doing was not enough."

Accused of covering up for cheating athletes after the 2000 Olympics, USA Track and Field shifted its testing responsibilities to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, but it came under renewed scrutiny when world champions Jerome Young and Kelli White were linked to doping offenses.

The U.S. Olympic Committee recently gave USATF a month to deal with doping and other issues to keep its certification.

Baltimore native James Carter, fourth in the 2000 Olympics in the 400 hurdles, welcomed the initiatives.

"Getting rid of dirty athletes is good," Carter said from Hampton, Va. "It's not hard to tell who is using drugs, but people have ways of covering it up. It's a sad day, but this could brighten things for the ones who work hard and aren't looking to get an illegal edge."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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