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Thursday, August 31, 2000
Doping agency warns Olympic athletes: Don't use drugs in Sydney

 SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Stung by revelations that athletes were avoiding doping tests, the Australian Sports Drug Agency vowed to boost its efforts to hunt down drug cheats before the Sydney Olympics.

 Australia's government-backed anti-doping watchdog, which already conducts 70 percent of its doping tests outside of competition, is planning to increase its no-notice tests in the weeks leading up to the Sept. 15-Oct. 1 Olympics.

 The agency has been contracted by the International Olympic Committee to conduct at least 400 pre-games tests throughout Australia starting Saturday.

 Agency chief executive Natalie Howson on Thursday warned that international athletes planning to arrive late would not escape the net, nor would athletes trying to relocate to remote areas or otherwise avoid testers.

 "The message to athletes thinking they can avoid detection in Sydney: Don't risk it," she said. "I am confident that we have done everything we can to ensure that the Sydney Games can be as clean as possible."

 Howson said the agency had conducted 6,366 tests in the last 14 months, more than any equivalent period in its 10-year existence.

 The drug agency will work with Australian Customs officials and other agencies to identify suspect groups that "might warrant a visit" from a doping tester, she added.

 "As a general rule we don't target individuals, we try to create a general deterrence, but we have the authority to test athletes at our discretion," she said.

 The World Anti-Doping Agency will perform 2,500 tests before and during the games, including those conducted by the ASDA.

 ASDA's increased testing had 34 positive tests from 23 athletes, including eight from Olympic sports, for the 12 months up to June 30.

 The positive tests included 14 for anabolic steroids, 11 for banned stimulants, five for recreational drugs, three for diuretics and one for failing to comply with testing.

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