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Young's Positive Test Confirmed by USOC

Action clears the way for an international review that could result in the loss of U.S. gold medals.

September 26, 2003|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — The U.S. Olympic Committee on Thursday confirmed that sprinter Jerome Young tested positive for a banned steroid a year before winning a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, clearing the way for international officials to review the case and perhaps strip the U.S. 1,600-meter relay team of its medals.

The USOC confirmed Young's identity as part of a presentation here to the International Olympic Committee detailing the cases of 24 U.S. medalists who competed at the Games from 1988 to 2002 after testing positive for drugs.

Young's case was the only one of the 24 for which an extensive search of USOC records could find "no documentation" offering a "reasonable explanation" for clearance to compete, the USOC said in a report. Olympic insiders said the report went far in dispelling suspicions of a USOC cover-up in anti-doping matters over the last 15 years.

IOC President Jacques Rogge called the confirmation of Young's identity "crucial." He said track and field's worldwide governing body, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, had been asked to investigate, with an eye toward follow-up IOC action "as soon as possible." The IOC board's next meeting is in December.

Arne Ljungqvist of Sweden, the IAAF's anti-doping chief, called the USOC action a "major breakthrough," adding, "The case can finally be evaluated and concluded."

The Times on Aug. 27 disclosed that Young was the athlete whose identity Olympic and IAAF officials had been seeking for three years. It had been known that a U.S. athlete had competed in the Sydney Games after a positive doping test; the IAAF had asked for the name but USA Track & Field refused, citing confidentiality concerns.

Young tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone in 1999. A USATF hearing board convicted him of a doping offense, but a USATF appeals panel, in a divided ruling, cleared him to compete just days before the 2000 Olympic trials.

In Sydney, Young ran in the preliminary and semifinal rounds of the 1,600-meter relay. In the finals, the U.S. team, anchored by Michael Johnson, cruised to victory. Per Games protocol, Young and five others got gold medals.

Dick Pound, the head of the Montreal-based World Anti-Doping Agency, called for the U.S. team to be stripped of its medals after Young's identity was disclosed last month. The IOC launched a joint inquiry with WADA.

The IAAF said it needed formal confirmation of the name before it could proceed. The USOC gave it Thursday as part of the broader report. "We felt this gave us an opportunity to dispel any notion that the USOC was involved in any way in a conspiracy of silence or a coverup regarding doping in the United States," USOC senior managing director Jim Scherr said of the report.

The IOC asked for the report in response to allegations of a widespread USOC doping cover-up going back to the 1980s, allegations USOC officials have consistently denied.

Rogge did not fully exonerate the USOC at a news briefing Thursday, saying the report had been referred to IOC anti-doping experts for review. But he stressed that he was "pleased and grateful" for USOC "openness and cooperation."

According to sources who were in the room and who spoke on condition of anonymity, the IOC's 15-member executive board broke into applause at the conclusion of the USOC's 2 1/2-hour presentation. One longtime Olympic insider said it marked the first time in years a USOC delegation was received with applause inside Chateau de Vidy, the IOC headquarters.

The USOC report, based on a review of about 700,000 pages dating to the 1980s, said that 19 of the 24 U.S. medalists tested positive for substances such as pseudoephedrine and caffeine, low-level stimulants commonly found in over-the-counter cold products.

The 24 included six from track and field, four from swimming, three from basketball, two from speedskating and Greco-Roman wrestling and one each from judo, tennis, gymnastics, volleyball, boxing, equestrian and snowboarding.

Only two of the 24, the USOC said, tested positive within two years of the Games in which they won a medal. Two years is the standard penalty for a major doping violation.

One was a female athlete who took and reported a medication the IOC told USA Swimming was not prohibited. The other was Young.

Critics of the U.S. have long pointed to the Young case as evidence of a U.S. credibility gap -- of U.S. officials covering for their own while accusing athletes elsewhere of doping violations.

"Have we had a problem with credibility? Absolutely," said Bill Martin, the USOC's acting president. But in 2000, the USOC gave control of the day-to-day business of analyzing and prosecuting doping cases to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and Martin said, "Do we expect to have a problem going forward? Absolutely not."

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