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Wednesday, June 21, 2000
Out-of-competition doping testing gets underway

 LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) -- Out-of-competition drug testing is beginning for athletes in three Olympic sports after agreements with the World Anti-Doping Agency.

 The agency said it had signed agreements with the international swimming and weightlifting federations, and testing was already underway in archery on the basis of a verbal agreement.

 Thirteen other federations have agreed in principle and 12 are in negotiations. One -- the World Taekwondo Federation -- has not yet responded to the proposals, the body said in a statement issued late Tuesday.

 The anti-doping organization plans to carry out 2,500 out-of-competition tests during 2000, most before the Sydney Olympic Games start in September.

 "To have 15 federations -- more than half -- already working or ready to work together on testing is a testament to the co-operation we are seeing ... especially when less than half had conducted out-of-competition testing in the past," agency chairman Dick Pound of Montreal said.

 The agency also established an official "independent observer" to monitor the doping control program in Sydney. The organization's secretary-general, Harry Syvasalmi, was appointed chairman of the panel of observers.

 Syvasalmi will head a panel of up to 11 people who are experienced in the scientific, administrative and legal aspects of doping control.

 "The WADA Office of the Independent Observer will randomly observe all facets of the results management system, from the collection of the samples to the analysis in the lab to the review the test results," the agency said.

 Australian Sports Minister Jackie Kelly said the independent watchdog would ensure public confidence in the drug-testing system.

 "Athletes can be assured that test results are treated with the utmost seriousness and every positive test will be fully accounted for," she said in a statement in Canberra. "Drug cheats will be punished but the process will ensure that the individuals' legal rights are fully protected."
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