- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 12, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia The International Olympic Committee's attempt to clean up the drug-ridden Summer Games has provoked a loud debate that many fear will make drugs, not medals, the focus of the Sydney Olympics.
The IOC last week for the first time began random testing of athletes for the synthetic hormone erythropolietin and other performance-enhancing drugs.
The debate dominates headlines in Sydney. The testing prompted some athletes to stay home, a round of self-congratulation among Olympic officials, an image-deflating report from the White House drug czar and a war of words between IOC and U.S. officials.
The Australian Sports Drug Agency aggressively carries out testing on athletes arriving for the games, which begin Friday. The agency has stopped athletes within hours of arrival over the past 10 days and administered urine tests.
As a result, China decided to keep 27 of its athletes at home rather than risk failing drug tests in Sydney. Several athletes from Canada and the Czech Republic also were banned for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch praises his organization's efforts to clean up the games.
"I am very pleased, very happy," Mr. Samaranch said after China's decision was announced. "The object is to have clean games, no? It's good for the image of the sport."
But some question whether the tests are designed to clean up just the image, not the athletes.
A study by the National Commission on Sports and Substance, funded by the U.S. government, recently charged that nearly 90 percent of athletes in some Olympic sports use performance-enhancing drugs. The report also blamed the IOC for not doing enough to stop drug use.
Barry McCaffrey, the White House drug czar, issued a statement along with the report that charged the use of drugs by Olympic athletes could affect youngsters watching the games.
"Unless we continue to rid the games of doping and drugs, children will also take the same drugs they see their stars cheating with," Mr. McCaffrey said.
Mr. McCaffrey has long been a critic of the IOC.
He called the organization's drug-fighting efforts "more public relations ploy than public policy solution" when he testified before a Senate committee in October. He described the organization as being "literally in denial."
Mr. McCaffrey's recent comments drew an angry response from IOC officials.
"The United States are making a lot of criticisms, but the first thing they have to do is see what is happening in their own country," said Prince Alexandre De Merode, chairman of the IOC medical commission.
"I can give you an example. UCLA is a good place for sports… . The first offense, they have only to talk to the trainer. After the second offense, no sanctions. They are out only one competition. Then finally, after the third offense, they have a sanction. I have the impression that it is a very light system. I believe that when you criticize others, you have to look in your own garden first."
His comments set up what appears to be a controversial session Saturday in Sydney, when Mr. McCaffrey arrives to attend the scheduled United States Olympic Committee media briefing on the issue of drug testing.
The IOC medical chairman's remarks may resonate within the USOC far deeper than just a war of words with Mr. McCaffrey.
In June, Dr. Wade Exum resigned as the committee's director of drug control administration.
Dr. Exum in his letter of resignation accused the USOC of encouraging doping among its athletes. He later charged that "no sanction has been imposed on approximately 50 percent of all the American athletes who have tested positive for prohibited substances."
USOC officials denied those accusations.
The issue of banned substances came to the forefront at the 1988 games in Seoul, when 100 meters champion Ben Johnson tested positive for steroid use and was stripped of his gold medal. Suspicion and controversy has continued to plague the Games since.
Four years ago, Michelle Smith, a little-known Irish swimmer, won three gold medals at the Atlanta Games. Competitors charged that she used performance-enhancing drugs. Two years later, she received a four-year ban from international swimming after officials at a competition in Ireland determined she had manipulated urine samples.
Just before the most glorious time of the Olympics the opening ceremonies on Friday track's international governing body will rule on appeals of athletes who tested positive for banned substances in competition before Sydney.
The organization's decisions may receive as much attention as the lighting of the Olympic torch.

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