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IOC Asks for Case Review of Sprinter

Prepared to act, panel apparently is awaiting confirmation that Young is the U.S. athlete at issue in doping report.

September 25, 2003|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — With the gold medals won by the U.S. men's 1,600-meter relay team at the Sydney Games at stake, the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday said it has asked track and field's worldwide governing body to "reconsider" the case of U.S. sprinter Jerome Young "as quickly as possible."

IOC Director General Francois Carrard also said of the governing body, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations: "If and when they do it, we will see what legal action we can take."

Young competed in the 2000 Games after testing positive the year before for the banned steroid nandrolone, which typically would produce a two-year ban. Young, initially convicted by a USA Track & Field panel of a doping violation, was cleared to compete by a USATF appeal board just days before the Olympic trials.

"We think this is a matter of principle," Carrard said. "It's an important element in the policy of the fight against doping. And that's why we are pushing the matter -- pushing it very quickly."

The prompt that the IOC would need apparently is formal confirmation -- either from USATF or the U.S. Olympic Committee -- that Young is indeed the athlete at issue. A delegation of senior USOC officials is in Lausanne, prepared to tell the IOC today that it had engaged in no systematic anti-doping coverup over the last 18 years. The Young case is all but certain to be on the agenda.

From the 1988 Seoul Summer Games to the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, 739 American athletes won medals. Of that total, 24 competed in the Games after a positive doping test, according to the USOC report. Of those 24, 19 tested positive only for substances such as pseudoephedrine and caffeine, low-level stimulants commonly found in over-the-counter cold remedies.

The other five, according to Rich Young, the Colorado Springs, Colo., attorney and anti-doping expert who wrote the USOC report, include a swimmer who was removed from the U.S. team after testing positive for nandrolone and served a two-year suspension; a basketball player who was made ineligible for the team after testing positive for cocaine; and a gymnast whose low-level test for morphine was attributed to eating poppy seeds.

Each of those three won a medal more than two years after a positive test. Two years is the standard penalty for a major doping violation.

Only two of the 24 tested positive within two years of the Games in which they won a medal.

One was a female athlete who took and reported a medication that the IOC told USA Swimming was not prohibited. The other was the "unnamed athlete" who competed in Sydney. The Times identified that person as Jerome Young on Aug. 27. Jerome Young and Rich Young are not related.

At the 2000 Games, Young ran in the first and semifinal rounds of the 1,600-meter relay. The U.S. team, anchored by Michael Johnson, won easily in the finals. Nigeria took silver and Jamaica bronze.

It has been well known in Olympic circles for years that a U.S. athlete had tested positive for a steroid but ran at the Sydney Games. The IAAF had asked for the name; USATF had declined to provide it, citing U.S. confidentiality rules.

The USOC report said there was "no documentation" in the files providing a "reasonable explanation" for USATF's move to clear Young to compete.

The report also acknowledges that the case has exacerbated anti-U.S. sentiment within the Olympic movement as the USOC is in the midst of wholesale management and governance reorganization that ultimately needs IOC approval. The U.S. Senate, acting late Tuesday on voice vote, approved legislation to streamline the USOC; the House of Representatives will now take up the issue.

U.S. confidentiality policies have long frustrated sports officials in other nations, and the Young case has emerged as a key example of a perceived U.S. double standard -- with officials elsewhere claiming that U.S. officials are quick to move in confidence to protect their own but perhaps quicker still to point fingers at potential doping violations elsewhere.

"The greatest concern raised by the case of the 'unidentified athlete' is the lack of transparency of positive test information amongst international testing authorities," the USOC report said.

Dick Pound, the head of the Montreal-based World Anti-Doping Agency, has called for the U.S. 1,600-meter team's medals to be stripped, saying Young's participation in the relay rounds undercuts the legitimacy of the win.

A joint IOC-WADA inquiry into the Young case has been underway since Sept. 10.

Because of the distinctive way the Olympic movement operates, the IOC needs the IAAF or USOC to open the door. "The key there is in the hands of IAAF, possibly in the hands of the USOC," Carrard said.

That's because the IOC is not omnipotent in Olympic affairs. At the Games, for instance, the various international sports federations run the sports themselves and the roughly 200 national Olympic Committees provide the athletes.

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