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USOC's Actions on Lewis Justified by IAAF

Track and field body says rules were followed in the clearance of athletes in drug cases.

May 01, 2003|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

The U.S. Olympic Committee did the right thing by clearing Carl Lewis and other athletes after investigating elevated findings from drug tests performed before the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, track and field's world governing body announced Wednesday.

The USOC followed the rules in dealing with eight positive tests -- for the stimulant ephedrine and chemical cousins in "low concentration" -- at the 1988 U.S. Olympic trials, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations said in a statement issued from its Monte Carlo offices.

The USOC "properly concluded" that each of the cases did not amount to doping under the rules in place at the time, the IAAF said, adding that those athletes who were tested, investigated and then competed later that year at the Seoul Games -- sprinters Lewis and Joe DeLoach among them -- were affirmatively eligible.

"It's black and white," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said in a telephone interview. "No rules were broken. There was no foul play."

Added Lewis' manager, Joe Douglas: "The rules in place then were followed. [Lewis] did not commit any doping offense."

Despite the IAAF's statement, Dick Pound, a Montreal attorney and chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said he had written IOC President Jacques Rogge to say the situation involving the USOC is "very serious" and the IOC "should be having the USOC over there," to the IOC's Swiss offices, "to explain what ... happened."

The IAAF's statement follows a report published April 23 in The Times that provided details of the tests conducted on Lewis and DeLoach, each testing positive for trace amounts of a three-part mixture of ephedrine or related stimulants. Lewis said he'd bought an herbal dietary supplement and had no intent to cheat; DeLoach was then his training partner.

Earlier last month, Sports Illustrated and the Orange County Register, relying on documents provided by the USOC's former director for drug control, Wade Exum, published reports alleging that more than 100 U.S. athletes had tested positive for drugs from 1988 to 2000 -- and that 19 went on to win medals.

The Exum documents, released shortly after the dismissal from federal court of a lawsuit he had filed against the USOC, had named Lewis, DeLoach and tennis player Mary Joe Fernandez, among others, and led to accusations from around the world that the USOC had engaged in a cover-up.

Fernandez won bronze in singles and gold in doubles in Barcelona in 1992, gold in doubles in Atlanta. Lewis is a nine-time gold medalist, winner in Seoul of the 100 meters and the long jump -- the 100 when Canadian Ben Johnson was stripped of the gold after testing positive for steroids. DeLoach won the 200 in Seoul.

The USOC has long denied any cover-up, spokesman Darryl Seibel saying Wednesday that the IAAF's stance "clearly validates our position." Moreover, the IAAF's stance serves to again raise significant questions about the scope and extent of the more than 100 purportedly positive tests in the Exum papers. He could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Fernandez tested positive in March 1992 for pseudoephedrine, found in the over-the-counter cold remedy Sudafed. In a letter she wrote to Sports Illustrated, published in this week's edition, she said that she had indeed taken Sudafed but noted that in 1992 Sudafed was not banned by tennis' governing bodies and that she had otherwise tested clean, before and after the Olympics.

Lewis and DeLoach account for four of the eight tests referred to in the IAAF statement; names and other details of the remaining four were not released.

In a parallel to the Lewis and DeLoach cases, the 1988 silver medalist in the 100, British sprinter Linford Christie, tested positive in Seoul for traces of pseudoephedrine. He claimed he had taken only health products containing ginseng. The IOC opted not to punish Christie because the amount at issue was so small. Christie went on to win the 100 at the Barcelona Games.

Under current anti-doping rules, the levels Lewis and DeLoach recorded in 1988 are so low they would not even qualify to be reported as a doping offense under what the IOC calls its "strict liability" system -- meaning that if it's in your body, you're liable.

Pound said Wednesday that the USOC system in 1988 at the time was "set up to fail."

All these years later, the stripping of Johnson's medal remains a sore point with many in Canada. Asked if he was motivated now by events in Seoul in 1988, Pound said, "This is not about Ben Johnson. Ben Johnson got caught with his jockstrap around his ankles and deserved to be disqualified. This is not a Ben Johnson follow up. This is a story about unequal standards being applied by the USOC compared to what they expect and insist other [national Olympic committees] to apply."

He added that WADA stands ready to help with any investigation.

Davies, the IAAF spokesman, indicated that probably would be a waste of time and resource. He said, "I think there's been a tremendous injustice for Lewis and DeLoach, actually."

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