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Just a Dash of Drugs in Lewis, DeLoach

Sprinters had such small amounts of ephedrine in 1988 tests that other reported positives questioned.

April 23, 2003|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

At the time, DeLoach and Lewis were training partners. Lewis said the elevated levels came not from a cold remedy but from ingesting an herbal dietary supplement he had bought. He said he could not remember where he purchased it, the name of the product, how often he used the pills or for how long.

At the time, he said, "I took all kinds of different herbs," adding, "I didn't get a boost. If I'd known it had ephedrine [in the pills], I wouldn't have taken it. It didn't say it on the bottle."

Under anti-doping protocol in place in 1988, concentrations of ephedrine-like substances between one and 10 parts per million were referred to the USOC -- to investigate whether an athlete had used a substance "with the sole intention of increasing in an artificial or unfair manner his performance in competition."

Pittenger asked for samples of the pills -- he said Tuesday he could not remember the name of the product either -- and found it contained ma huang, another name for ephedrine.

"You take 'sole intent,' the level of which today would not even be reported and ... I thought without question that it was inadvertent use and didn't meet the 'sole intent' criterion," he said. "I am not the least bit defensive about the decision that was made."

Added Neal Benowitz, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco who is an expert on ephedrine and other stimulants, "These [levels] are what you'd see from someone taking cold or allergy medicines and are unlikely to have any effect on performance."

In 1990, doping protocol changed, the IOC issuing a circular directing that concentrations under five parts per million for ephedrine and 10 parts per million for pseudoephedrine and phenylpropanolamine, also known as PPA, not even be reported.

As science got more precise, those thresholds were raised in 2000 to 10 parts per million for ephedrine and 25 for pseudoephedrine and PPA.

Lewis said of the results, "I'm not making a lot of it because that's just the way life is. I've danced at this party for a long time."

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