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Thursday, July 6, 2000
Doping probe halted when athlete refuses to detail his claims

  SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Australia's Olympic committee abandoned an inquiry into systematic doping of elite athletes when the discus thrower who raised the allegations refused to give names to investigators.

  Judge Tricia Kavanagh had been picked to lead an independent inquiry into the claims made by Werner Reiterer in his autobiography, "Positive," which was released Wednesday.

  Reiterer, who had admitted using steroids for five years before his retirement, claimed swimmers and track athletes were using illegal human growth hormones, which were undetectable using conventional doping methods.

  He also said that at least one Olympic administrator condoned drug use by warning athletes about the timing of doping tests and giving advice on how to beat tests.

  Kavanagh was preparing to interview Reiterer, but Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates abandoned the investigation Thursday after meeting with Reiterer.

  Reiterer, reading from a statement at a news conference, said the corrupt officials he knew of were either retired or were not going to be involved in an official capacity at the Sept. 15-Oct. 1 Sydney Olympics.

  On that basis, and due to the fact he didn't believe that identifying individual drugs cheats was a solution to the problem, Reiterer said he could not provide any more details to investigators.

  "I have not been silenced in any way," he said. "I will continue to promote my book and my beliefs. I refute allegations that all I'm doing is promoting my book for financial gain."

  Coates said he didn't regret calling for an inquiry barely five hours after Reiterer's revelations became public or that the investigation had basically amounted to nothing.

  He said the claims sullied the image of the entire Australian Olympic team, and he called for the investigations "because of the potential damage to the reputation of a lot of athletes and officials."

  "If there is a problem, I want to get to the bottom of it," he said. "I don't want ever for the AOC to be charged with sweeping something under the carpet."

  Coates said the investigation could reopen any time Reiterer was prepared to cooperate.

  "I made it clear to him that my strong preference was that the investigation by Judge Kavanagh proceed," he said. "But Werner has decided that he doesn't want to name names.

  "This inquiry was only into Werner's allegations. It was absolutely dependent on him cooperating," he added. "If anybody else has allegations, then we will do the same thing, we will set up an investigation procedure."

  The Australian Sports Drugs Agency was expected to continue its investigation into irregularities in testing procedures.

  Coates said Reiterer agreed to join the AOC drug awareness campaign despite the fact athletic officials would proceed with action against the 1994 Commonwealth Games gold medalist. He was likely to serve a two-year competition ban.

  AOC member Herb Elliott, a 1960 Olympics gold medalist, said athletes who admit to doping often accuse everyone of doing it "so they look less like cheats themselves."

  If Reiterer was prepared to talk in an open forum then, "what is an unfortunate incident may end up with a nice result -- if there is a cheating official, they will be identified and removed before the Olympic games," the former champion runner said.

  Reiterer, the 1995 Australian Athlete of the Year, had agreed to cooperate with the inquiry, but was still refusing to identify officials he implicated.

  "I don't think it's appropriate to point the finger at any individual," the 32-year-old Austrian-born athlete told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "It's the system in general that is the problem, naming names is really, I don't think, the way to go about it."

  The 1994 Commonwealth Games gold medalist said the people he could expose would be out to get him, but he wasn't scared of the consequences.

  The allegations were splashed across the front pages of Sydney newspapers Thursday, the Sydney Morning Herald headline reading: "Hunt is on for drugs cheats." The issue also dominated TV and radio news and talk shows.

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