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Olympic Cover-Up Alleged : Drug testing: Nine positive results at 1984 Los Angeles Games were kept secret, official says.

August 23, 1994|ELLIOTT ALMOND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nine positive drug tests at the 1984 Summer Olympics were allegedly covered up and documentation subsequently destroyed, it was revealed Monday.

Don Catlin, director of the UCLA facility that handled the Olympic drug testing, told The Times that a number of positive results were never reported and that he never knew why.

Catlin's comments come on the heels of reports on BBC television and in the Times of London that questioned the handling of drug testing during the L.A. Games.

A BBC report talked of a break-in and shredded documents, as if the latest Olympic drug scandal had borrowed pages from the Watergate and Iran-Contra affairs.

One of the report's main sources was Craig Krammerer, Catlin's associate in 1984, who said that five of the nine tests showed the presence of anabolic steroids. The others had traces of testosterone, the male sex hormone, and ephedrine, the substance for which soccer star Diego Maradona was kicked out of the World Cup. All the substances are banned by the International Olympic Committee.

Krammerer, now a drug researcher in New Jersey, said the laboratory sent its findings to IOC officials and waited for a reply to test the second samples. Technicians split urine specimens into "A" and "B" samples for separate verification, which is a standard procedure.

During 15 days of operation, the UCLA laboratory tested 1,502 athletes. Twelve positives were reported, including two medal winners--a Swedish weightlifter and Finnish distance runner.

The greatest number--157--were tested the day before the Olympics ended. The nine positives allegedly ignored came during the competition's last two days. Among the marquee events held in the final two days were the men's shotput, women's discus, men's 1,500, women's 100 hurdles, men's marathon and boxing finals.

"We couldn't keep track of each case," Catlin told The Times. "We were so busy. These other things going on didn't sink in until sometime afterward."

Harry Usher, who was vice president of the L.A. Olympic Organizing Committee, dismissed the allegations.

"I don't know where (a cover-up) would come from but not from the LAOOC," he said.

Tony Daly, the LAOOC's chief medical officer, said he hears drug rumors after every Olympics.

"Even from (South) Korea (in 1988) and Russia (in 1980)," he said. "I always discount it."

According to the BBC report, Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the IOC, Peter Uebberoth, president of the LAOOC, and Prince Alexandre DeMerode, president of the IOC medical commission, discussed the drug positives in a meeting. A fourth person present at the meeting told the BBC that DeMerode refused to go along with any attempt to cover up the results.

Arnold Beckett, a former member of the IOC medical commission, said the plan was carried out anyway.

Without DeMerode's cooperation, it was more difficult because the Belgian prince was one of the few officials who had access to the athletes' names and corresponding code of their urinalysis.

The UCLA laboratory sent its coded results to DeMerode, who connected the names and informed the athletes and their coaches of the positives.

In the case of the nine positives, DeMerode never got the chance. Beckett said someone broke into his hotel room, stole the data and shredded it.

"(DeMerode) told us they had taken them and shredded it," said Beckett, who was removed from the commission because of a disagreement during the Barcelona Games. "There was no way to connect the documents with the person."

IOC officials refused to comment on the specific allegations, but pointed to the organization's long standing against performance-enhancing drugs.

"There has been tremendous progress in the last 10 years of the management and control of doping," UCLA's Catlin said. "I can't work with people fooling around. These people run very credible programs."

One explanation given for the missing positives was that the IOC sent control tests to check the laboratory's reliability. But Krammerer said IOC officials informed the laboratory after they caught each control.

"There were two," he said Monday. "We caught both of them."

Contacted in Toronto, Beckett, 74, said he did not speak out earlier because he thought it was best for the Olympic movement.

"In retrospect, it was a wrong decision," he said.

Beckett, who retired from Kings College of London nine years ago, also implicated Primo Nebiolo, president of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, as helping devise a plan to cover up the tests.

Beckett alleged Nebiolo tried to change a positive of a distance runner in 1984, but other IAAF officials refused to do it.

Nebiolo could not be reached.

"I broke rank with good intent," Beckett said. "Somebody has got to stop this madness."

Times staff writer Julie Cart contributed to this story.

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