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IAAF Will Retest Paris Samples

Track organization to look for THG in drug tests from world championships. Bonds is due to testify to grand jury in December.

October 22, 2003|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

Track and field's worldwide governing body announced Tuesday it would retest all urine samples taken during its world championships in August to learn if athletes were using a designer steroid at the center of a widening investigation.

The International Assn. of Athletics Federations said it would check those 400 samples for the steroid tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG.

Authorities have said they believe the THG came from a Bay Area lab that is the focus of a federal grand jury sitting in San Francisco. The lab's founder, Victor Conte, denies any wrongdoing.

"If athletes have deliberately set out to cheat the public at our world championships, then they must be exposed and dealt with in the strongest possible way," IAAF President Lamine Diack said in a statement.

The IAAF announcement adds to a matter that already includes the federal grand jury inquiry and the disclosure last week that several U.S. athletes had turned up over the summer with preliminary positive tests for THG, some at the U.S. track championships at Stanford in June. Now the search for THG goes global.

"It's important for the IAAF to find out if this stuff was in worldwide use," Dick Pound, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said in a telephone interview from Montreal.

The grand jury in San Francisco apparently convened Tuesday behind closed doors. Its focus: Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, a Burlingame company founded by Conte, widely known in track and field circles. His lawyer, Robert Holley, has said that Conte has not been subpoenaed.

"My client is innocent until proven guilty," Holley said Monday.

Federal and local law-enforcement agents searched BALCO on Sept. 3. Two days later, they searched the home of Greg Anderson, personal trainer for Barry Bonds, the San Francisco Giants' slugger.

Conte, in e-mails to news outlets, has said that 40 athletes have been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. Among those identified by Conte or in news accounts: Bonds, New York Yankee first baseman Jason Giambi, sprinter Kelli White, who won two gold medals at the world championships in Paris, and U.S. shotput champion Kevin Toth.

White tested positive in Paris for the stimulant modafinil. She stands to lose her medals and $120,000 in prize money.

Bonds is due to testify in December, his attorney, Mike Rains, told Associated Press on Tuesday. Rains added that he was told Bonds was a witness, not a target of the grand jury.

Emmanuel Hudson, head of the Irvine-based HSI sports management group, which represents track stars such as sprinters Maurice Greene and Torri Edwards, said the credibility of track and field was at issue.

"We need a resolution to the whole world championships situation and the Kelli White situation," he said.

Hudson also said, referring to the grand jury, "None of my athletes has been subpoenaed."

The scope of the federal inquiry is not clear. Federal officials have declined to comment.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which tests athletes in Olympic sports -- it does not now have authority to test athletes in U.S. pro leagues -- last week said THG was developed and used as part of what it called an international doping "conspiracy."

USADA's chief executive, Terry Madden, added that samples from "several" U.S. athletes had turned up positive. About 350 tests were taken at the meet in June at Stanford, and about 200 more were taken from July through September.

Tests are divided into two samples, A and B. USADA's account is based on a positive finding in the A samples. The B sample must confirm the presence of THG, and a brief review period must be concluded, for an athlete's identity to be disclosed.

A steroid "offense," in the language of Olympic doping protocol, typically draws a two-year ban -- long enough to keep an athlete out of next year's Athens Olympics.

Madden named no names and did not specify how many athletes "several" amounted to. He said an anonymous, self-described "high-profile" track coach had identified Conte as the source of THG. Conte has denied being the source.

The IAAF said Tuesday that the engineering of THG, a previously unknown steroid, was a matter of "great concern."

Diack said in a statement that the IAAF was "committed in principle" to retesting the Paris samples as "part of this investigative process."

IAAF spokesman Nick Davies elaborated in remarks provided to Associated Press: "We're going to do it. The legal issues aren't really that big. Our rules are quite clear -- we have the right to do the tests. Now we just have to work out the details."

There is an International Olympic Committee-accredited lab near Paris, and WADA announced Tuesday that the THG test had been shared with all Olympic-accredited labs around the world. The test was developed at the Olympic-accredited UCLA lab.

Asked if scientific reasons mandated tests sooner rather than later, Don Catlin, head of the UCLA lab, noting that samples were refrigerated, said, "We know of no sample degradation. So there's no issue of doing them before such-and-such a date. As far as we know, THG is stable."

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Staff writer Helene Elliott contributed to this report.

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