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Monday, August 21, 2000
Customs minister: Increasing drug seizures not Olympic-related

 SYDNEY (AP) -- Customs Minister Amanda Vanstone said an increase in the seizure of performance-enhancing drugs entering Australia was not related to the upcoming Olympic Games.

 Vanstone on Monday revealed Australian Customs had seized 1,125 packages containing performance-enhancing drugs over the past 12 months.

 The figure represented a 16 per cent increase on the previous year and a 40 per cent rise over five years.

 But Vanstone, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency, rejected suggestions of a growing stockpile of black-market drugs available for athletes during the Sydney games to be held Sept. 15 to Oct. 1.

 Image enhancing drugs, including anabolic and androgenic steroids, made up the bulk of the haul.

 More than 80 per cent of the drugs were contained in postal packages from the United States, where some of the drugs are legally available over the counter in pharmacies.

 None of the prosecutions for illegal important of performance-enhancing drugs had involved athletes, Vanstone said.

 However, an employee at the New South Wales academy of sport was charged earlier this year with importing drugs that could illegally improve an athlete's performance.

 Vanstone said the Internet had made the drugs more accessible to average Australians, and it wasn't just athletes who used them.

 "Some performance and image enhancing drugs are made in Australia or can be legally imported for some uses and then illegally diverted," she said of problems authorities faced in countering drugs in sports.

 Vanstone said that customs officers would remain on high alert to prevent the important of drugs both before and during the Olympics.

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