Suit threats over bans waved off

USOC, drug agency say code won't shield cheaters

Drugs

May 21, 2004|By John Jeansonne | John Jeansonne,NEWSDAY

NEW YORK - Olympic anti-doping officials believe that evidence apart from conventional drug tests not only can be used to bar athletes from this summer's games in Athens, Greece, but also can withstand threats of legal action in U.S. courts.

Wednesday's Olympic suspension of Kelli White, the reigning women's world champion in the 100 and 200 meters, was based on her admission - after confronted with documents produced in the BALCO probe - that she used performance-enhancing drugs.

But even without the confessions of athletes - something that's usually unheard of - the U.S. Olympic Committee and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency are moving ahead with an effort to ensure only "clean" athletes compete in Athens by pursuing "non-analytical positives."

USADA intends to use such items as letters, e-mails and invoices tying athletes to BALCO, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative said to be the source of a new designer steroid and the provider of other banned substances to athletes in several sports. Furthermore, White has agreed to be a witness for USADA in charging other athletes.

Last weekend, Olympic sprint champion Marion Jones - among the high-profile athletes who was subpoenaed by the grand jury in the BALCO case - challenged the legality of non-analytical sanctions.

Jones declared, "If I make the Olympic team, which I plan to do, and I'm held from the Olympic Games because of something somebody thought or said, you can pretty much bet there'll be lawsuits."

But Dr. Gary Wadler of the World Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees Olympic drug-testing globally, said that, "If an athlete says, `I'm going to sue over non-analytical positives,' they'd better read the code."

That code, in detailing anti-doping violations, goes far beyond traditional urine or blood tests in defining doping positives.

It includes the "use or attempted use" of banned substances - such as catching an athlete with a syringe containing illegal drugs; refusing to submit a urine or blood sample; failing to appear for a test or failing to be reachable for out-of-competition testing; tampering or attempting to tamper with a sample, and the possession of banned drugs by an athlete's coach, trainer, manager, agent, team staff, official, medical or paramedical personnel who is "working with or treating" an athlete.

WADA's rules apply to all athletes participating in events sanctioned by those international federations - in track and field's case, the International Amateur Athletics Federation - that have implemented the WADA code.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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