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IOC Official Sided With the USOC at 1988 Meeting

Minutes show high-ranking expert declared Lewis, others were rightly cleared of low-level drug findings.

May 17, 2003|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

Madrid — The current head of the International Olympic Committee's medical commission, acting as part of worldwide track and field's executive council in a meeting at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, declared that the U.S. Olympic Committee had properly cleared Carl Lewis and others after investigating elevated findings at tests earlier that year, the minutes of that meeting reveal.

Arne Ljungqvist of Sweden, a doctor and expert in detecting performance-enhancing drugs, told the International Amateur Athletic Federation council that "after studying the facts, he was satisfied that the cases should not be treated as positives."

The minutes of the IAAF meeting, obtained Friday by The Times, surfaced as the IOC's ruling executive board today undertakes revisiting the issue. The minutes would appear to bolster the claim of the USOC and the IAAF that the USOC handled the matter properly.

The USOC's general counsel, Jeff Benz, will brief the IOC board on the USOC's position -- affirmed in a statement issued April 30 by the IAAF, which still goes by the same acronym but is now known as the International Assn. of Athletics Federations -- that it did nothing wrong. Benz on Thursday provided the IOC with a lengthy memo outlining the USOC's position.

IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said, "We're talking about one particular case where we agree with the USOC. This is what we are adamant about: We have the evidence. Nothing untoward happened, according to our rules."

Benz said, "This merely confirms there never was a cover-up in these cases, and these cases were handled appropriately."

The IAAF's statement was issued April 30, a week after a report in The Times detailed the tests conducted on Lewis and Joe DeLoach at the July 1988 Olympic trials. Each tested positive for a combination of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or a related stimulant. Lewis said he had bought an herbal dietary supplement and had no intent to cheat.

Lewis tested for a combined mixture -- in three tests -- of two, four and six parts per million. DeLoach, Lewis' training partner, tested once, registering seven parts per million.

The USOC found no evidence of "sole intention" to dope, as required at the time, and cleared both athletes.

The amounts were so low, they wouldn't qualify under current rules as doping incidents. Lewis is a nine-time gold medalist. In Seoul he won 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.

Ljungqvist has been a member of the IOC's medical commission, its in-house anti-doping panel, since 1987 and became its chairman earlier this year. He has served since 1980 as chair of the IAAF's medical commission. He could not be reached Friday for comment.

The minutes of the IAAF council at the 1988 Games indicate that Ljungqvist told the council he had sought a "full report" after hearing "media reports and rumors" after the U.S. trials.

He concluded that the USOC had "wrongly announced" eight positives.

In each of the eight instances, he said, "it was now known that the substances included ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, found in drugs purchased over the counter as cold cures." The rules then made it "possible to accept the presence of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine up to a certain level in which cases no positive results would be reported, and the result declared negative in the normal way.

"The USOC," he continued, according to the minutes, "had decided not to take any further action after a full investigation, and [the U.S. track governing body] followed this ruling."

The minutes summarize: "Dr. Ljungqvist said after studying the facts, he was satisfied that the cases should not be treated as positives."

The April 30 IAAF statement said the USOC acted appropriately in all eight cases. The identities of the athletes at issue have not been made public.

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 in 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 cover-up. Dick Pound, a Canadian IOC member and head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, urged the IOC to launch an inquiry.

It's not uncommon for the IOC to inquire into matters presented to the executive board but the IOC consistently has been reluctant to interfere in matters supervised by international sports federations or national Olympic committees.

The IOC has declined, for instance, to intervene in the case of U.S. boxer Roy Jones, who appeared to have won a gold-medal fight at the 1988 in Seoul but got silver. Nor has the IOC moved to take away the gold medals earned in the 1970s and 1980s by East German swimmers. It is well established that many competed in the Games after taking muscle-building steroids in a wide-ranging, state-sponsored doping program.

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