U.S. track officials blasted for faulty doping test

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WASHINGTON (AP) At the end of the Sydney Olympics, with the C.J. Hunter controversy still fresh, USA Track & Field was criticized for the way it handled positive drug tests.

An independent commission has found the criticisms were very much warranted.

A report released Wednesday cites the USATF for not following international doping guidelines and for lax enforcement of its own rules. It also states that an unnamed American track and field athlete who tested positive for steroids was allowed to compete in Sydney after U.S. officials failed to follow proper international procedures.

While the Independent International Review Commission said the USATF didn't deliberately cover up any positive drug tests, the commission accused the body of not using ''its own procedures for assuring that no doping cases were ignored or suppressed.''

The report came on the same day that organizers of next year's Salt Lake City Games went on the doping offensive, proposing that every athlete be tested before being allowed to compete at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

In a groundbreaking move, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee told the International Olympic Committee in Moscow that it was asking Congress for $1 million to finance out-of-competition drug tests for up to 1,000 athletes.

''We want to assure all athletes of a level playing field and make sure that the cheaters have been caught,'' SLOC president Mitt Romney said. ''This is a monumental goal that I feel would change the face of the Olympic Games.''

At the Sydney Games, the problem wasn't a lack of testing, but a failure by USATF to follow rules, according to the commission's report.

The report cited the example of Hunter, the 1999 world shot put champion, whose several positive tests for steroids were not reported by USATF to the U.S. Olympic Committee before the team's arrival in Sydney. Hunter mistakenly retained his athlete's credential, and his suspension wasn't announced until Sept. 25, making for a very public embarrassment for the American delegation during the games.

The report said another U.S. athlete, whom it refused to name, actually competed after testing positive for an anabolic steroid. The athlete was cleared on appeal before the 2000 Olympic trials, but the USATF failed to turn over the athlete's name or sufficient details about the case to the sport's international governing body, the International Amateur Athletic Federation.

Dr. Patrick Schamasch, medical director of the International Olympic Committee, said he was unaware of any such case.

''We have been reviewing all the cases and we have not heard of any problems so far,'' Schamasch said in Moscow, where the IOC is holding its 112th general assembly.

The IAAF frequently has overturned doping rulings by national federations. However, with the IAAF unable to review the case, the athlete was allowed to compete at Sydney.

''USATF's confidentiality policy has impeded the IAAF's authority to enforce its own doping controls,'' the report said. ''Moreover, USATF's strong adherence to its confidentiality policy lent credence to the view of some that USATF had something to hide.''

The report said that the unnamed athlete was one of 17 doping cases that the USATF did not report in a timely manner to the IAAF, and that the testing laboratory involved did not divulge the results until just a few weeks prior to the Olympics.

The report also faulted USATF for not meeting deadlines for acquiring second samples after a first sample tested positive, for not enforcing deadlines for doping hearings and for ''insufficient'' out-of-competition testing because athletes couldn't be located for surprise tests.

USATF CEO Craig Masback issued a statement disputing parts of the report.

''Delays in reporting of initial drug test results cannot be attributed to USATF, despite the commission's accusations,'' the statement said.

The statement blamed the delays on ''IOC-accredited laboratories, delays in IAAF processing of athletes' letters of explanation, delays in receipt of other information from various regulatory bodies, including the USOC and IAAF.''

Furthermore, USATF said its ''confidentiality policies were not an attempt to hinder or undermine anti-doping procedures,'' nor had it ''failed to respond to a request by the IAAF for information on a domestic drug test.''

Robert Bennett, an investigative lawyer of the commission, called the USATF's response ''unfortunate.''

''The commission did a thorough and professional job and the report speaks for itself,'' Bennett said. ''The commission had to issue the report when it was ready, and we could not delay the report because people requested us to do so.''

The independent review commission consisted of a Canadian law professor who specialized in doping cases, the former chief executive of Bethlehem Steel, a barrister from New Zealand and 1972 Olympic diving medalist Micki King.

Its investigation was handled by prominent Washington attorney Robert Bennett, who represented former President Clinton in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit.

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