The Athletics Congress, the governing body for U.S. track and field, is both flawed and inconsistent in its drug enforcement policies, according to confidential documents obtained last week by The Times.
Despite its publicly stated hard-line approach to drug use, the organization gives the impression of being confused and unsure in this area, even when it comes to its own policies.
Among the things the documents show is that TAC officials have:
--Selectively enforced drug positives.
--Circumvented their own protocol and by-laws when convenient.
--Pressured members of the drug appeals committee to overturn one case that could have resulted in a suit.
--Invalidated some positive drug tests because of sloppy procedures by physicians and administrators who regularly handle these tests.
--In some cases, simply forgot about reported drug positives.
This information comes on the heels of the May 2 resignation of four members of various TAC committees that are responsible for overseeing the drug testing. Among those is Edwin Moses, a three-time Olympian and longtime critic of drug use in track. Also resigning were Harvey Glance, formerly a world-class sprinter, Doriane Lambelet, a Washington, D.C., lawyer, and Linda Sheskey, a former national-class distance runner.
The documents also show that many of the positive drug tests now reveal stimulants rather than steroids. Dr. Robert Voy, formerly the chief medical officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee, believes stimulant abuse is rampant among athletes such as sprinters and jumpers. Voy resigned last summer because he said he was frustrated by the USOC's attitude toward use of stimulants.
In February, two positive tests for the stimulant ephedrine were declared void in a letter by Ollan C. Cassell, TAC executive director, to Harvey W. Schiller, executive director of the U.S. Olympic Committee. That decision contradiction Cassell's organization's rules. Citing USOC, International Amateur Athletic Federation and International Olympic Committee rules, Cassell said in a written ruling that the tests indicated inadvertent use because of the low levels that were found.
But TAC rules stipulated that \o7 any \f7 trace of ephedrine was a positive test, a recent policy change that is stricter than international rules. That rule is reverting to one in accordance with the IOC's that allows for inadvertent use, said Alvin Chriss, special assistant to Cassell.
The group had removed the inadvertent-use clause from its rules when the February verdict was rendered.
When confronted with this discrepancy by members of TAC's Year-Round Drug Testing Committee, Cassell said he overlooked his organization's rules, said a committee member. Later, however, Cassell's assistant who helped develop the policy change attempted to justify TAC's decision to invalidate the tests in a formal correspondence to committee members.
Chriss said Monday that rules were not purposely violated. He said Cassell might have made a mistake "in processing a routine case."
"Nothing was done wrong," he said.
The organization's handling of stimulant use also has come into question. Despite international rules against stimulant use, TAC, in some cases, has ignored them.
"One-time use may be inadvertent, or innocent, but when I see (stimulants) used by veteran athletes who have been through countless urine testing and should know better, I wonder if they really are treating a cold," Voy said.
"It opened a giant loophole that the athletes in the last few years have discovered."
Said Moses: "That's why we added the rule not allowing inadvertent use."
Although Larry Myricks, Greg Foster and Antonio McKay were suspended this year for taking such drugs, many others who have tested positive continue to compete.
During last January and February, the heart of the indoor track and field season, 12 athletes were found to have taken one of the stimulants pseudoephedrine, ephedrine or phenylpropanolamine, according to a USOC report for the first quarter.
Two of the athletes were excused for what Cassell called inadvertent use in a confidential Feb. 14 correspondence to Schiller. \o7 Inadvertent use \f7 allows for athletes who take low doses of cold medications for sickness.
"We don't want another Rick DeMont," said Peter Cava, TAC spokesman, who said a TAC zero-tolerance rule never existed.
DeMont was a U.S. swimmer who was disqualified from the 1972 Olympics after testing positive for an over-the-counter medication he took for an asthma condition.
Although the USOC administers some tests for TAC and other national governing bodies, its constitution does not allow it to give out sanctions. Therefore, the USOC accepts the verdict decided by its governing body.
"I have said all along there needs to be an independent body conducting the testing," said Voy, a sports medicine specialist in Las Vegas.