SEARCH 2000 Games

Friday, July 7, 2000
Judge appointed to investigate complicity claims

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Australian Olympic chief John Coates refuses to believe his sports officials condoned systematic doping but says he can't guarantee the system is squeaky clean.

The Australian Olympic Committee president ordered a full-scale inquiry Wednesday into allegations by Olympic discus thrower Werner Reiterer that Australian officials covered up widespread doping.

Reiterer's claim that a majority of Australian athletes are using performance-enhancing substances contradicts Australia's official hard line against drugs in sport leading into the Sept. 15-Oct. 1 Olympics.

Swimmers and track athletes were using illegal human growth hormones because those substances were undetectable using existing doping tests, he said.

The 1994 Commonwealth Games gold medallist said he'd been given advice from "an Olympic administrator" about the timing of doping tests and about methods of ensuring a clear test result.

The revelations were contained in Reiterer's book Positive, launched Wednesday in Sydney.

The 32-year-old former Australian athlete of the year said he timed his public admissions to gain maximum attention.

The Austrian-born Reiterer said he had been a chance of making the Sydney games but retired because his conscience got the better of him.

Allegations earlier this year linking Australian sporting institutions with systematic doping were largely ignored because the athletes making the accusations had been discredited.

Reiterer's admission that he'd used steroids since 1995 and had only quit four months ago sparked a full-blown reaction from national sports administrators.

Coates appointed judge Tricia Kavanagh, a former deputy chairwoman of the Australian Sports Drug Agency, to lead an independent inquiry.

Kavanagh was reportedly set to interview Reiterer on Thursday.

Reiterer agreed to co-operate with investigators but has so far refused to implicate any officials, saying there was "no benefit in dobbing people in."

Coates said Reiterer's stance took "a fair bit of guts."

He said the allegations were disturbing but would not tarnish Australia's reputation as an anti-drugs campaigner.

The inquiry will "only unsettle members of the (Australian Olympic) team who've got something to hide, I don't think it'll unsettle anyone else," he said.

Athletics Australia chief executive Simon Allatson said the inquiry would show clearly that the vast majority of Australian athletes "are clean and competing fairly."

"I'd prefer to see the silver lining in this inquiry rather than the negatives," he said.

The inquiry guidelines compel Kavanagh to investigate: the involvement of any Australian Olympic official or athlete in the use or administration of any prohibited substance; any avoidance of the proper collection of doping samples; or any failure to report the use of banned substances.

She will report her finding and recommendations to Olympic authorities.

The Australian Sports Drug Agency also planned to investigate claims that officials were complicit in a tailored testing schedule that allowed suspect drug cheats to avoid doping tests.

Agency chief executive Natalie Howson said there was no evidence to back Reiterer's claims.

"Our systems are set up against international standards that are designed to minimize athletes avoiding testing," said Howson, adding that no-notice and out-of-competition testing had been on the rise.

Reiterer admitted to spending about 20,000 Australian dollars ($18,340 Cdn) each year on banned performance-enhancing substances. He said his coach was unaware of his drug-taking but athletics officials knew of it.

He said he was using eight banned substances when he was tested in January and, despite telling doping officials he was "full of drugs", his sample returned negative and he was allowed to continue competing.

He said his doctor advised him which drugs were undetectable.

Some athletes used masking agents to disguise the presence of drugs in their systems, and at least one person eluded testers by sending his brother in to undergo a test, he said.

Australia's swimmers had access to more powerful drugs than other athletes because of their higher profile, he added.

But Australian Swimming officials described the allegations as "completely unfounded" and "outrageous."

Australian Swimming spokesman Ian Hanson said the sport's national governing body was taking legal advice.

Hanson said Australian swimmers were always volunteering to undergo blood testing in a bid to wipe out doping in sports.
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