LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, gave emphatic support Monday to U.S. anti-doping authorities as they consider proceedings against candidates for the 2004 U.S. Olympic team.
Rogge, who said he has closely followed the BALCO doping case, said the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was well within its authority to start proceedings against an athlete even without a positive urine sample, the usual trigger for a doping case. Asked whether he were in favor of that approach, Rogge said, "Yes."
He also praised the U.S. Senate for turning over to USADA materials that the Senate Commerce Committee, headed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), had collected from federal prosecutors investigating the BALCO case. Several high-profile track and field athletes are said to be under USADA scrutiny.
"I commend Sen. McCain," Rogge said. "I wrote him a letter to congratulate him, by the way."
Rogge also commended the U.S. Olympic Committee and USADA.
Rogge made his comments amid an expedited review by USADA officials of the BALCO material. USOC officials maintain that they do not want to send an athlete to the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, then learn later of drug use as the BALCO court case unfolds.
USADA won a legal victory Monday in a federal court in New York. A judge upheld USADA's method for arbitrating doping-related disputes in a case brought by one of four U.S. athletes who tested positive last year for the designer steroid THG.
The Olympics will begin Aug. 13, and the U.S. team will be named by July 21. The U.S. track and field trials will be July 9-18 in Sacramento.
USADA is a quasi-independent agency that manages the testing and adjudication process for U.S. Olympic, Paralympic and Pan American sports athletes.
In February, four men were indicted on 42 counts in federal court in San Francisco in the BALCO case. Among them were self-described sports nutritionist Victor Conte, BALCO's founder, and Greg Anderson, baseball slugger Barry Bonds' personal trainer.
All have pleaded not guilty. The case centers on allegations of distribution of steroids and other banned substances to athletes in baseball, football and track and field.
Some of the biggest names in track and field, including sprinters Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, testified last year before a federal grand jury in San Francisco investigating BALCO.
Jones won five Olympic medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, including three gold. Montgomery, her partner and the father of her infant son, holds the world record in the 100-meter dash.
Two Bay Area newspapers, citing unidentified sources, reported last month that Conte had told federal investigators he had given steroids to Jones and Montgomery. The athletes and Conte deny that claim, and Jones and Montgomery have repeatedly denied the use of any banned substance.
Speaking Sunday in New York at a USOC conference, Jones said, "If I make the Olympic team, which I plan to do in Sacramento, and I'm held from the Olympic Games because of something that somebody thought, you can pretty much bet that there will be a lawsuit."
In Olympic jargon, a positive urine sample is called an "analytical positive." USADA's rules allow it to start proceedings -- aimed at suspending an athlete -- based on a "nonanalytical positive," information gleaned from sources other than a drug test, such as reliable evidence from a court case.
"The proof of evidence is not necessarily an analytical proof," Rogge said. "There are many other proofs, such as admission [or] possession of drugs. There are many forms of proof. And when an athlete admits before a grand jury, then obviously this is a kind of proof."
USADA is not believed to have grand jury materials.
Rogge emphasized, "You don't need to have an A and B positive sample," a reference to a urine sample, which is delivered to an Olympic-accredited lab for testing in two parts, one marked A, the other B.
The "best example," Rogge said, "is what we had in the Tour de France in 1998, where a number of riders admitted having taken drugs without having been tested positive."
He also said, in a reference to a case from the 2002 Winter Games, "And then you had also the issue of the Austrian blood doping in Salt Lake. We found the vials. And that was the proof."
The IOC's ruling executive board imposed sanctions on two Austrian cross-country skiers, their coach and chiropractor after blood-doping gear was found at a home occupied by Austrian skiers in Heber City, Utah, at the 2002 Games.
The USADA received backing Monday from sprinter Maurice Greene, the former world-record holder in the 100-meter dash and a longtime rival of Montgomery.
"I stand behind USADA in everything they do," Greene said at the USOC conference, pointing out that the substances allegedly distributed in the BALCO case were designed to avoid detection. "They weren't supposed to find it.... I think there is no room in our sport for drug cheaters whatsoever."