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Track Officials Puzzled

June 02, 2004|David Wharton and Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writers

With a top U.S. sprinter barred from this summer's Athens Games -- and the potential for additional doping cases to follow -- national track and field officials have asked for advice should suspended athletes sue to get onto the Olympic team.

In a May 26 letter obtained by The Times, USA Track & Field asked the U.S. Olympic Committee for help regarding a number of legal scenarios.

The confusion stems from anti-doping officials' seeking to bar athletes not because of positive drug tests, but because of circumstantial evidence such as checks and e-mails unearthed in the BALCO steroids case.

Though sprinter Kelli White recently agreed to a suspension when confronted with such evidence, so-called "nonanalytical positive" cases remain controversial.

In their letter, track and field officials asked the USOC for "clear guidance."

USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said: "We are in receipt of the letter. We are working on a response that we believe is appropriate."

The highly legalistic correspondence might be seen as a preemptive action by track and field officials still dealing with fallout from their handling of the Jerome Young case.

Among the scenarios they put forward to the USOC, the most significant deals with athletes suspended because of nonanalytical evidence.

Under a federal act, no action may be taken against any athlete until his or her case has run the gamut of hearings and appeals, the letter states.

But international sports rules require that an alleged cheater be suspended immediately and remain so until the case is resolved.

With the Olympic trials about a month away and the Games coming up at summer's end, there is little time to sort out this seeming contradiction.

Mindful that the confusion could prompt alleged cheaters to seek court injunctions or take other action, track officials have asked the USOC to respond "as soon as possible."

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