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Wednesday, March 22, 2000
Half of Sydney Olympians to be tested before games

By ERICA BULMAN -- Associated Press

  LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- The World Anti-Doping Agency in April will start out-of-competition drug testing on half the 10,000 athletes participating at the Sydney Olympics.

  "We plan to have as many as 2,500 tests under our program," IOC vice president Dick Pound said Wednesday. "With national and international federations performing unannounced testing as well, that would be in excess of 5,000 out-of-competition tests performed. That would mean, on average, one in two athletes participating in Sydney will have been tested in unexpected circumstances."

  Another top official doubted a test for the banned performance-enhancer erythropoietine, or EPO, would be ready in time for the Sept. 15-Oct. 1 games.

  EPO allows users to cram extra oxygen into the bloodstream. Pound said it's possible an EPO test will be developed in time, but IOC medical commission member Arne Ljungqvist disagreed.

  "It will take a year at least if the test is to meet all the criteria to meet all the legal demands," he said. "I've heard plenty of rumors, but seen no facts that anyone has come up with a valid test."

  WADA, which met at International Olympic Committee headquarters Wednesday, said it is pressing governments to allow immediate access to athletes for out-of-competition testing.

  In many countries, testers are denied entry visas for weeks, giving athletes time to purge their systems.

  "If governments don't comply we'll raise a wall of shame," Pound said. "It's not in a government's interest to have it known they are hindering out-of-competition testing."

  The IOC will continue to have authority over drug testing, analysis and sanctions in Sydney, but WADA will monitor the process and be informed of any positive tests.

  At previous games, the head of the IOC panel was the only official to receive test results from the lab.

  In Sydney, four other people will be notified. That group will report any positive findings to the full IOC medical commission, which will make recommendations to the IOC executive board. The board will continue to have the sole authority to disqualify athletes for drug use.

  A full report on testing results will be made within a month after the games.

  WADA is temporarily based in Lausanne, but is seeking a new home and a new chief executive officer. It expects to choose both within a year.

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