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Pound Wants U.S. to Forfeit Medals

Citing sprinter's positive test, president of World Anti-Doping Agency says 1,600 relay team should give up golds it won at 2000 Olympics.

August 28, 2003|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

The World Anti-Doping Agency called Wednesday for the U.S. men's 1,600-meter relay team at the Sydney Olympics to be stripped of its gold medals because sprinter Jerome Young had failed a doping test a year before the Games.

Young, who won the 400 meters Tuesday at the world track and field championships in Paris, tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone in 1999. He was initially found liable of a doping violation but was cleared on appeal just days before the U.S. Olympic trials, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Times.

Young ran legs in the preliminary and semifinal rounds of the 1,600-meter relay and was one of six Americans to share in gold when a team anchored by Michael Johnson breezed to victory in the finals.

Dick Pound, president of WADA, said Wednesday in a statement that the International Olympic Committee should launch a "full investigation" and act "decisively" to "preserve the ethical values of Olympic sport and the image of the Olympic Games."

Young appeared Wednesday night at a medal ceremony for his 400-meter win. He made no comment.

IOC President Jacques Rogge was traveling and could not be reached for a response to the WADA statement. A campaign against doping has been among his priorities.

The Young case underscores simmering resentment toward U.S. authorities over the widely held perception of a double standard. Competing nations have complained that the U.S. is quick to criticize athletes and sports officials from other countries for wrongdoing -- while it finesses rules to benefit Americans.

U.S. officials insist they play fair and have denied covering up U.S. doping positives.

It has been known for years that an American athlete tested positive for a steroid before the Sydney Games but was allowed to compete after being cleared on appeal by U.S. authorities.

USA Track & Field officials say they were not required to report a name to the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, the worldwide governing body for track, because the athlete won his appeal.

In his statement, Pound referred to a "conspiracy of silence."

Young tested negative after a meet on June 12, 1999; positive for the steroid nandrolone on June 26; and negative again on July 2. A three-member "doping hearing board" found a violation and USATF imposed a suspension in April 2000. But a three-person "doping appeal board" ruling in July 2000 reversed that finding and cleared Young to compete.

Because USATF did not reveal Young's identity, IAAF officials were unable to conduct their own investigation before the Sydney Games.

The IAAF kept out of the Games two other athletes who were involved in doping cases similar to Young's.

German track star Dieter Baumann, who tested positive for nandrolone in 1999, was cleared on appeal by the German track federation. However, the IAAF imposed a two-year suspension -- typical for a nandrolone case -- before the Sydney Games.

British sprinter Mark Richardson also tested positive for nandrolone in 1999. He, too, was cleared by the British track federation on appeal but, after action by the IAAF, was kept out of the Sydney Games.

Reporting late Wednesday on an interview with Richardson, The Times of London said, "He said that he felt there was one rule for the American [track and field] federation and one rule for the rest [of the world]."

The Times is not aware of any positive test or allegations of positive tests concerning Young since 1999.

Sports federations such as USA Track & Field are no longer the lead players in doping cases involving U.S. athletes. The newly formed U.S. Anti-Doping Agency took over that role after the Sydney Olympics; during the Games, the IOC oversees doping protocols.

WADA has been working for several months on a process called "harmonization" -- making anti-doping rules consistent from nation to nation. "Now we need harmonization for ethical conduct," said Steven Ungerleider, an Oregon research psychologist who wrote the book, "Faust's Gold: Inside the East German Doping Machine."

"The United States has not been very forthcoming in that department," he said, adding that he "absolutely" supports the call for an investigation into Young's test and appeal.

Olympic results can be challenged within three years of the Games' closing ceremony. The Sydney Olympics ended Oct. 1, 2000, leaving five weeks for action.

The IOC's policy-making executive board has a regularly scheduled meeting set for late September in Lausanne, Switzerland. Already on the agenda is a report due from the USOC about dozens of doping cases involving American athletes in the last 25 years.

In a telephone interview, Pound, a senior IOC member from Montreal, said the USOC "as [the national] arbiter of Olympic fair play, should be tendering [the Sydney relay medals] to the IOC rather than having the IOC be forced to withdraw them."

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