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TAC Challenged Test, Overturned the Results

September 19, 1989|ELLIOTT ALMOND | Times Staff Writer

In the confusing world of drugs and drug testing, Bob Bowman of The Athletics Congress would like to believe U.S. officials are doing what is right.

For that reason, Bowman and his colleagues on TAC's National Board of Review earlier this year overturned positive results by pole vaulter Billy Olson and shotputter Augie Wolf.

In an interview Monday night with The Times, Bowman said that two TAC appeals panels in separate rulings decided the athletes did not conclusively test positive for testosterone at the indoor national championships last February in New York. The test results were overturned and neither athlete was punished.

Dr. Arne Ljungqvist of Sweden, the chairman of the medical commission of the International Amateur Athletics Federation, testified at a Canadian commission investigating drug use by athletes that the TAC failed to report the positives, the New York Times reported in today's editions. Although Ljungqvist did not name the athletes, he claimed they tested positive at the UCLA laboratory, which is run by Dr. Don Catlin.

"I wondered what happened to the reports," Ljungqvist testified. "What seems to happen is that that panel takes the final decision and, in my view, this is not correct procedure, and I am not afraid of saying so."

What happened, Bowman said from Oakland, was that the officials were not convinced that the athletes had unacceptable levels of testosterone in their systems. Bowman said he was a member of the committee that overturned Wolf's positive. Bowman and an unidentified TAC official who sat on the other panel confirmed Olson's case.

"The evidence presented did not indicate a violation," said Bowman, a member of TAC's board of directors. "It's one thing if it's an unnatural steroid (a derivative of the male sex hormone testosterone), quite another thing if it's testosterone. Everyone has testosterone in their system. Was it an unnatural level? Those levels had not been determined scientifically as far as we are concerned."

The International Olympic Committee made testosterone a banned substance in 1983, and first tested for the hormone at the 1984 Olympics. Still, accurate testing for testosterone has been disputed.

Central to the dispute is whether a normal amount of testosterone produced naturally by the body can be determined. Medical science concluded at the time that the normal person should have a one-to-one ratio in the body of testosterone to epitestosterone, a biologically inactive steroid found in the testes and ovaries. But persons, particularly athletes, are known to have higher levels of testosterone to epitestosterone.

According to IOC rules, which were later adopted by the IAAF, the world governing body of track and field, a person will be disqualified only if he is found to have a six-to-one ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone. Some athletes argued in 1983 that their bodies may naturally have produced that level of testosterone and that they may be disqualified even if they never have taken an injection of the substance.

That concerned was echoed by Bowman and the other TAC official who asked not to be identified. They said the IAAF also is concerned with the system in effect. Bowman said revisions are being considered by IAAF officials because recent research indicates that the six-to-one ratio may not be valid.

"Research has shown that some normal people may have a 75-to-one ratio," Bowman said.

Bowman said that in the case of Wolf and Olson the levels were close to the six-to-one ratio. He and the other official said committee members agreed the results were not conclusive beyond reasonable doubt.

"These athletes were tested negative many, many times," Bowman said. "We were looking for a trend. One positive test in a string of negatives is important to take into account.

"We must have a fair hearing when the athletes test positive. We need to protect integrity of process on both sides. We're venturing into whole new area that's going to require more homework and more expense. We're learning as we go."

Olson, one of the United States' best pole vaulters and a member of the 1988 Olympic team, finished second at the indoor nationals with a vault of 18 feet 8 1/4 inches. Wolf was second in the shot with a put of 67-2 3/4.

Neither could be reached for comment Monday night.

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