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  • Saturday, March 13, 1999

    HGH test effectively ruled out for Sydney 2000

     ROME (AP) -- The IOC drug chief on Saturday effectively ruled out trying to catch athletes using performance-enhancing human growth hormones at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
     Prince Alexandre de Merode said the most that can be realistically hoped for is that blood samples might be taken at those games for research purposes.
     But even the prospects for that, which would amount to testing the doping test, are uncertain.
     "About the only thing we can do (at Sydney) would be research," said de Merode, head of the International Olympic Committee's medical commission.
     "Important progress has been made and we can say a test exists, but the main question is whether the test can be used in competition or out. Based on the data we have seen, I would say it is a test for out of competition.
     "If we want to use the test in Sydney, it can't be as it is today."
     Human growth hormone -- or HGH -- helps build muscles and is one of two drugs officials believe are most widely-used by athletes who cheat. The other -- erythropoietin, or EPO -- is an endurance-boosting hormone that increases the blood's ability to carry oxygen.
     Dr. Christian Strasburger of Innenstadt University Hospital in Munich, Germany, reported Friday that he has developed a new, highly accurate blood test to detect HGH. But the IOC repeatedly has said it will not introduce blood testing at the Olympics unless a 100 percent accurate test is found.
     Substances that mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body have become the drugs of choice in sports because they cannot be detected by current testing methods, which involve only urine analysis.
     De Merode said it's likely that use of an HGH test in 2000 would be on an anonymous basis.
     "To be fair, you can't take a medal away from someone who is tested with a method that is still not 100 percent accurate," de Merode said.
     He spoke Saturday following three days of meetings between officials from the IOC, EU, United Nations and drug-testing labs. Other issues he addressed included:
     -- The fight against doping is being hampered by the IOC's bribery scandal. "As the credibility of the IOC is questioned, it's harder to carry out our work," de Merode acknowledged. "This is about the future of the IOC itself."
     He defended the IOC. "What has happened is unfortunate, but I'm not sure it should be defined as 'corruption.' It was really an error in conduct and behavior," De Merode said. "If you give me cuff links, I'm not going to ask if they are stainless steel or gold, or how much they cost. So it's not the person who takes that is at fault, but the one who gives."
     -- Italy's Acqua Acetosa drug-testing laboratory, which was shut down in October after revelations of improper procedures, appears to have passed the first step toward being re-accredited, de Merode said, and should be up and running within 1999.
     -- The Rome sessions were part of a series of meetings aimed at standardizing anti-doping efforts -- involving testing facilities, national police and Interpol -- across Europe. "We learned from the Tour de France," he said, "that we need tight collaboration from government agencies."
     
     
     


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