The U.S. Cycling Federation prohibited blood doping Friday, becoming the first national sports federation either in the United States or abroad to move beyond deploring the practice of transfusions to a formal ban against them.
The cycling group, meeting at Colorado Springs, Colo., set penalties of 30 days suspension from competition for a first offense, 180 days for a second and indefinite suspension for a third.
The federation also ruled that any coaches, trainers or doctors found participating in administering transfusions or encouraging the athletes to take them would be subject to similar suspensions.
The action came in the wake of disclosures that at least seven of the 24 members of the 1984 U.S. Olympic cycling team--including five medal winners--received transfusions shortly before their events.
Phil Voxland, a University of Minnesota professor who was the federation's president during the Olympics and was reelected to his old post Friday, said that despite the fact no medical test exists that can detect the transfusions, he was "convinced that just having such a rule will dissuade athletes from doing such a thing."
Voxland said: "I don't think that people are out there cheating. I think athletes will play by the rules if those rules are there."
Three federation officials, meanwhile, were ordered punished for what was termed their "serious errors in judgment" in the Olympic transfusion episode. They are team Coach Eddy Borysewicz and Elite Athlete Program director Ed Burke, both suspended from duty for 30 days without pay, and team manager Michael Fraysse, who was demoted from first vice president of the federation to third vice president. Fraysse was also asked to resign from the board.
In a statement, the federation board of directors said the athletes who accepted the tranfusions at the Los Angeles Games would not be penalized after the fact, since they were "not considered responsible for the incident."
The federation leaders said their investigation indicated that the blood doping at the Olympics had not materially affected the competition results, so they insisted that the medals won were not tainted.
The leaders appealed to other national sports federations in this country and Olympic sporting groups around the world to join in formally banning the practice--despite the lack of any medical test to detect it.
They also extended what they termed "a sincere apology to the American public" and all those participating in the sport "for pain and embarrassment they have been caused" by the blood doping revelations. Although the statement said that neither the federation's executive director, David F. Prouty, nor U.S. Olympic Committee officials on the administrative level had knowledge of the blood doping when it occurred, it conceded that some federation officials directly involved with the cycling team were aware of it.
In New York, Col. F. Don Miller, executive director of the U.S. Olympic Committee said: "The United States Olympic Committee commends the U.S. Cycling Federation for dealing with a very sensitive matter in a fair and impartial manner. The USOC has assured all parties from the beginning that it did not feel the athletes involved were responsible and that we condemn, as we always have, the practice of blood packing. However, any further action by the USOC in this matter will depend on the report by our own investigative committee, which has not concluded its activities." Blood doping, also sometimes called blood packing or blood boosting (the latter term was used in the federation's statement Friday), involves transfusing one or two pints of blood, frequently just the red blood cells from that much blood, into an athlete between six hours and six days before competition. The purpose is to increase the oxygen-carrying capacity and, consequently, endurance. The transfusions may be of blood originally taken from the athlete or, as reported in the majority of the Olympic cycling cases, from relatives or others with the same blood type.
Taking one's own blood is regarded as less risky, medically, than taking it from others. In cases of the athlete's own blood being used, the blood is removed from weeks to several months before the competition and stored at minus 80 degrees. But in the case of the Olympic athletes, this proved infeasible because they would have been too weakened in trials competition to make the team. So the blood of relatives was reportedly used.
Originating in 1972, blood doping has reportedly spread widely among European cyclists, runners and other endurance competitors. In 1976, the International Olympic Committee's medical commission condemned the practice but did not formally ban it.