Copyright 2000 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc. St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
July 23, 2000, Sunday, FIVE STAR LIFT EDITION
SECTION: NEWS, Pg. A1
LENGTH: 2252 words
HEADLINE: SKEPTICISM SURROUNDS NEW AGENCY TO HALT DOPING IN OLYMPICS; DIRECTOR PLEDGES TO "PROTECT THE INNOCENT ... PROSECUTE THE CHEATERS"; FOR SOME ATHLETES, STAYING CLEAN ISN'T AS IMPORTANT AS WINNING
BYLINE: Andrew A. Skolnick; Special To The Post-Dispatch
DATELINE: COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO.OLYMPIC GAMES; CONTESTANTS; ATHLETES; DRUG USE; CONSISTENT TESTING
In less than three months, the U.S. Olympic Committee will pass the
baton of drug control to a newly established organization called the
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
experts are raising questions about whether the new agency is
independent enough to restore the confidence of both the public and the
athletes, who often must choose between a chance at winning or staying
On Oct. 1, the new agency will toe
the starting line in hopes of overtaking athletes who cheat. There is a
lot of ground to be covered.
For more than
three decades, athletes who use performance-enhancing substances have
kept far ahead of the anti-doping efforts of sports governing bodies,
Among the challenges the new agency faces: a crisis of confidence that has grown over years of drug scandals in sports.
Tour de France cycling scandal in 1998 left little doubt that
well-oiled, international doping operations remain in the sports world.
In that incident, customs agents at the French-Belgian border
discovered a trunkload of oxygen-boosting drugs, growth hormones,
steroids, amphetamines and other drugs in a car driven by a trainer for
the Festina team.
That team included
French superstar Richard Virenque; world champion Laurent Brochard; and
Alex Zulle, twice winner of the Tour of Spain.
and other scandals have led to the widespread perception that the
Olympic Committee and other sports governing bodies have done too
little, too late to stop what health experts say is an epidemic of
dangerous drug abuse.
This epidemic is
threatening the health and lives of athletes from the Olympic Games to
grade-school sports, said Robert Housman, assistant director for
strategic planning at the White House Drug Policy Office. The latest
national survey shows overall illicit drug use by eighth-, 10th- and
12th-graders went down 13 percent between 1997 and 1998, while steroid
use jumped 15 percent.
"Young people are
watching star athletes and following in their footsteps," Housman said.
"They're being taught that no matter what sport they pick, their
pharmacist can help them.
"We don't even
know the full extent of the problem. In some sports, l ike cycling,
weight lifting and swimming, it's epidemic. Virtually every single race
has one or more cheaters. But we don't know how widespread it is in
sports like archery and shooting because we haven't focused on them."
confusion stems from the lack of agreement between sports governing
bodies about what should be banned and what should be done to those who
cheat. For example, Major League Baseball rules allowed Cardinals
home-run champion Mark McGwire to build himself up with the
steroid-like substance androstenedione even though it is banned in the
The harmful effects of steroids
and other illicit drugs span a spectrum from growing coarse hair on a
woman's face and body, to enlarged breasts and smaller testicles in
men, to psychiatric disturbances and even sudden death.
with one of the most popular new drugs -- erythropoietin (EPO) -- is
believed to have caused the deaths of at least 18 elite European
cyclists and a dozen other athletes, according to the White House Drug
And the number of cardiac
arrests caused by ephedrine and other stimulants taken to boost
performance or lose weight continues to mount, says the U.S. Food and
Crisis of confidence
the 2000 Olympic Games less than eight weeks away, both sports-medicine
experts and athletes say disagreements and deficiencies in drug testing
will threaten the credibility of any winning performance requiring
strength, endurance or speed. Some are predicting that the Sydney Games
will be known as the "Hormone Olympics," because testing will not be
done for two drugs of choice -- human growth hormone and EPO.
such as Australian swimming federation president Terry Gathercole are
complaining that the absence of tests for these drugs will allow drug
cheats to compete -- and possibly win -- at the Sydney Games.
Yesalis, a professor at Pennsylvania State University who is an
anti-doping expert, predicts, "The Sydney Games will be the most
drug-laden Olympics to date."
restore confidence is the lawsuit Dr. Wade Exum filed Monday in federal
court in Denver against the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S.
In his suit, Exum, who
resigned last month as chief of the Olympic Com mittee's drug-control
program, accuses his former supervisors of covering up for many
athletes caught using performance-enhancing drugs -- including some
Exum also disputes that the
new agency is truly independent. He notes that it was created and its
board members appointed by an Olympic Committee task force. That task
force also appointed Terry Madden, chief of staff to the Olympic
Committee's president, to head the agency.
is not the only one voicing concern over what he calls an "incestuous"
relationship between the Olympic Committee and the new drug-control
Also skeptical is John Hoberman,
professor of Germanic languages at the University of Texas in Austin
and an authority on doping in sports. The Olympic Committee's "history
of looking the other way lends credibility to Dr. Exum's charges," he
said. "Where is the evidence that the USOC has ever been interested in
doping control except in regard to public relations?"
For children's sake
Madden, chief executive of the new anti-doping agency, does not share such skepticism.
says he is taking his new job catching and prosecuting doping cheats
seriously for the sake of his three young children. "When my
11-year-old son asked me, 'What's a steroid?' that question brought the
seriousness of the problem home to me."
Madden, a lawyer and former prosecutor: "We're going to protect the
health of athletes, and we're going to protect the innocent. But we're
going to catch and prosecute the cheaters."
agency also plans to take the responsibility of prosecuting athletes
out of the hands of the national governing bodies of sports -- a change
that those inside and outside of sports have sought.
governing bodies receive more money when their athletes win more
medals. No matter what people's intentions were, the old system had an
inherent conflict-of-interest that jeopardized the effectiveness and
efficiency of anti-doping efforts, Madden said.
anti-doping agency will tighten up testing protocols as well as
prosecution of athletes who test positive, he said. It also will work
with the nations of the world to make sanctions more consistent.
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency also plans to double the percentage of drug
tests conducted without notice. "Our goal is to have 50 percent of all
tests unannounced," Madden said.
agency has few staff members and has yet to appoint a medical director.
But Madden expects that it will be able to conduct more than 5,000
tests next year and eventually increase the annual number to between
6,000 and 8,000.
He also plans another
symbolic change: to move the anti-doping agency's office from the U.S.
Olympic Committee's campus in Colorado Springs to separate facilities
elsewhere in town.
Twice the budget
new agency's budget for its first year is $ 6.7 million -- double this
year's allotment for the Olympic Committee's anti-doping efforts. Half
of that money comes from the White House Drug Policy Office, $ 2
million of which is earmarked for research to develop new tests for
detecting performance-enhancing drugs.
expects that the agency's new programs will be effective enough to
assure that the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City will be totally
clean for U.S. athletes.
The only hope in
controlling doping is to create a climate of doubt and fear among
athletes thinking of cheating, says Olympic gold-medal marathoner Frank
Shorter, chairman of the new agency's board of directors.
my view, most athletes want a level playing field where they don't have
to take drugs to have a chance at winning," said Shorter, an outspoken
critic of doping in sports.
Among the new
policies he expects the new anti-doping agency to implement will be the
storage of athletes' urine samples for future testing, when better
tests become available. He also is opposed to any statute of limitation
for those who test positive.
cheat should fear that one day they may wake up to a knock on their
door and have their medals taken away," Shorter said. "We are at the
point where this cheating has to end."
Suit alleges interference
the U.S. Olympic Committee's campus in Colorado Springs, sculptures and
displays explain the history and spirit of the modern Olympic movement,
which was founded by Baron Pierre de Coubertin more than a century ago.
the visitors center, one such sculpture proudly proclaims "Higher,
faster, stronger," the Olympic motto de Coubertin dreamed up -- a dream
that was to be achieved by talent, hard work and determination.
Yet many now believe that dream can no longer be achieved without dangerous drugs.
who use performance enhancing drugs do not earn medals -- they steal
them," retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, director of the White House
Drug Policy Office, told an International Olympic Committee conference
last year in Switzerland.
before Congress, McCaffrey also has said that doping is threatening the
safety of the athletes and the trust in organized sports.
athletes verge on creating records that honest human performance cannot
best," he said. "We seriously risk the creation of a chemically
engineered class of athletic gladiators."
his suit, Exum, who served at director of the U.S. Olympic Committee's
anti-doping program for nine years, accuses the committee of throwing
"roadblocks" in the path of his drug-control efforts.
recent years, absolutely no sanction has been imposed on roughly half
of all the American athletes who have tested positive for prohibited
substances," his suit alleges. The suit also accuses the committee of
cites allegations of various acts of interference from superiors who
had no medical backgrounds, including Jim Page, a former head of the
U.S. Nordic team who had been banned from the sport for authorizing the
blood doping of a team member.
Committee is "running a controlled-doping program rather than a
doping-control program," Exum said in an interview last month. So far,
he has not made public any evidence for his assertions.
Friday, Exum held a news conference in Denver to answer questions
concerning his lawsuit. Shortly after, the U.S. Olympic Committee held
a news teleconference, during which it categorically denied all of
Exum's charges. Richard Young, an attorney hired by the Olympic
Committee to investigate some of those charges, said he found no
evidence of any cover-up or other impropriety.
I asked Dr. Exum for specifics, he could not provide one single case of
a cover-up," added lawyer Scott Blackmun, senior managing director for
sport resources. "What we have here are opinions rather than
Blackmun, who was Exum's boss, also categorically denied his charges of racial discrimination.
Robert Voy, who as Exum's predecessor headed the U.S. Olympic
Committee's anti-doping programs for six years, shares some of Exum's
skepticism on whether the new agency is going to be truly independent
"From the list of committee
members, I don't see much of a change in attitude, philosophy or
ingenuity of approach, at least at this point," he said. "Until there
is a truly independent program that can be trusted, token anti-doping
programs will perpetuate use of drugs in sports rather than stopping
But not every authority is
pessimistic. Housman at the White House Drug Policy Office agrees that
the record will be a burden to overcome, but he calls the establishment
of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency an "enormous step forward." Removing the
responsibility of prosecuting and disciplining athletes from the
national governing bodies is a major advance, he said.
his office is providing half of the new agency's budget this year,
whether it continues to fund the agency will depend in part on how well
the agency does. Housman says he is confident that the agency will be
able to restore the trust of both athletes and the public.
he agrees with critics who say it's too soon to judge whether the U.S.
Olympics anti-doping program is on the road to recovery. "We will have
to judge what is done, not what is said," he said.
National sports governing bodies have been responsible for overseeing drug controls at the Olympics.
Those same bodies get more federal money when their athletes return home with medals.
enhancing substances become more prevalent as more athletes do what
they think they have to in order to bring home the gold.
Prosecution will be transferred from national sports governing bodies to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Testing protocols will be tightened.
Athletes who test positive will face tougher penalties.
The agency will work inter- nationally to make sanctions consistent.
The percentage of drug tests conducted without notice will be doubled.
PHOTO, GRAPHIC (1) Color Photo by the Associated Press - Sanderlei
Parrela of Brazil raises his hands in victory May 14 after winning the
400 meter event of the Rio Gran Prix in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Parrela
was suspended by the International Amateur Athletic Federation for
failing a drug test after the event and may miss the Olympics. (NOTE:
The caption for the Three Star edition on this photo ended with "Sidney
Olympics".) (2) Photo by the Agence France-Presse -
Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe and wheelchair athlete Louise Sauvage
display their "True Champion" passports in Sydney last week. The
passport is part of the Australian Government's Tough on Drugs in Sport
strategy, which gives personal testimony to the anti-doping ideals of
Australian athletes by documenting their drug testing history with the
Australian Sports Drug Agency (ASDA). The initiative targets elite
Australian athletes competing for places in Olympic and Paralympic
teams for the Sydney 2000 Games. (3) Graphic / Chart - Policing the Summer Games - Testing athletes for drug use through the years (year) Drug tests conducted Doping cases discovered
0 1984 1,507
5 1996 1,923