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USOC Takes Its Case to the IOC

May 16, 2003|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

MADRID — The U.S. Olympic Committee on Thursday provided a lengthy explanation to the International Olympic Committee about the 1988 doping tests of track stars Carl Lewis and Joe DeLoach, documenting the USOC's assertion it acted within the rules by clearing both after investigating elevated findings in tests done before the Seoul Olympics.

In a bid to win from the IOC the same conclusion issued recently by track and field's world governing body, the USOC's general counsel, Jeff Benz, provided the materials Thursday to the IOC's ruling executive board.

IOC President Jacques Rogge, who had asked for an explanation in the aftermath of news reports, said the IOC would analyze the USOC's materials. Benz is now due to meet here Saturday with the board.

Benz declined to release the documents to The Times. But he said, "As these records show, and as confirmed by the IAAF," meaning the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, track's worldwide governing body, "the USOC has not engaged in any coverup.

"There's no coverup."

The IAAF issued its statement one week after an April 23 report in The Times that detailed the tests conducted at the July 1988 Olympic trials on Lewis and DeLoach, each testing positive for trace amounts of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or a related stimulant. Lewis said he had bought an herbal dietary supplement and had no intent to cheat; DeLoach was then his training partner.

In 1988, the rules said that an elevated finding required the USOC to find evidence proving "sole intention" to dope. The USOC found no such evidence, and cleared Lewis and DeLoach to compete.

The amounts were so low they wouldn't qualify under current thresholds as a doping incident. The rules now do away with the element of intent.

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.

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 naming Lewis and DeLoach, among others, and 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 documents were released shortly after the dismissal from federal court of a lawsuit Exum had filed against the USOC, and led to accusations from around the world that the USOC had engaged in a coverup. Dick Pound, a Canadian IOC member and head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, urged Rogge and the IOC to launch a wide-ranging investigation.

The doping rules in place in 1988, however, were subject to interpretation. For instance, Linford Christie, the 1988 silver medalist in the 100, tested positive in Seoul for pseudoephedrine. But the IOC opted not to punish Christie because the amount at issue was so low, and he went on to win the 100 at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

The USOC is no longer in the drug-testing business; the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency assumed that responsibility in late 2000. Moreover, the specifics of the Lewis and DeLoach cases raise significant questions about the scope and nature of the other -- more than 100 -- tests in the Exum papers. He could not be located Thursday for comment.

Rogge's initial letter to the USOC was issued without the benefit of the IAAF's statement saying the USOC had done no wrong. The letter is dated April 29; the IAAF, after reviewing its files, issued its statement April 30.

The IAAF's secretary general, Istvan Gyulai, said late Thursday, "The IAAF expressed its opinion. We stick to it. In our opinion ... it appears all rules which were valid at that time were respected." Nonetheless, he added, "It's the IOC's right to ask the USOC to confirm this."

An IOC inquiry is not unusual -- but it would be highly atypical for the IOC to ultimately seek to rewrite history. The IOC also has consistently declined to interfere with matters long considered the province of the international sports federations or national Olympic committees.

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