One day after Pan American Games officials disqualified six athletes for suspected drug use, it was announced Tuesday that testing has detected a drug that tries to hide the presence of banned substances.
The drug known as probenecine has been found in as many as three cases, Mario Vazquez Rana of Mexico, President of Pan American Sports Organization, said at a news conference. Probenecine, which often is prescribed as a remedy for gout, is not among more than 3,700 substances banned by PASO or the International Olympic Committee. Therefore, Vazquez Rana said, none of the athletes whose urine tests positive for the drug will be penalized.
Vazquez Rana did say, however, that the results of these tests would be forwarded to the IOC with his recommendation that probenecine be included on the list of prohibited substances.
PASO medical committee members had been alerted to look for probenecine by Dr. Manfred Donike of the IOC medical commission, said Dr. Ronald Blankenbaker, the Indianapolis organizing committee's representative to the PASO medical commission.
Donike is considered one of the world's leading authorities on drug testing. He was summoned from his home in Cologne, West Germany, to conduct the testing at the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela. That testing resulted in the first widespread drug crackdown in amateur sports.
Blankenbaker said that Donike discovered probenecine in the urine of an athlete attempting to hide the use of strength-producing anabolic steroids.
"We are facing a problem with drugs that goes beyond the problems we were looking at," Vazquez Rana said through an interpreter. "In these games, we are seeing something new. "(Probenecine) erases the drugs that have been used."
Probenecine helps mask the presence of other drugs in the system by inhibiting their excretion, thus lessening the chance of other drugs being detected by urinalysis. Its use in international amateur sports has been detected only in the past few months but it has become increasingly popular.
The discovery of probenecine here does not come as a surprise in the medical community. Dr. Don Catlin, director of the UCLA analytical laboratory, recently predicted that probenecine would be detected here.
"That's the latest fad," he said. "I expect the Pan Am Games to have a fair amount of that."
Vazquez Rana said he would not give the specific number of athletes who had tested positive for probenecine but indicated that the number was relatively small.
"If it was 20 or 30, I would tell you," he said. "We only have two, if not three."
Blankenbaker said the names of those who test positive for probenecine would not be released.
On Monday, Vazquez Rana announced that six athletes had tested positive for banned substances and had been suspended.
Those included Bill Green, a hammer thrower from Torrance. Green had won a silver medal Aug. 10 but his drug test showed an excess of the male hormone testosterone.
Under the rules of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, the London-based international governing body for track and field, Green faces a possible lifetime suspension from the sport. Lifetime bans, however, traditionally have been reduced to 18 months upon appeal.
Green declined comment Monday and issued a statement Tuesday referring questions to his lawyer, former U.S. Congressman, Paul N. McCloskey of Palo Alto. McCloskey said he had only accepted Green's case late Tuesday and was not prepared to discuss what legal remedies he might seek.
Green, a former U.S. record-holder, placed sixth in the 1984 Summer Olympics. He had a personal best of 255 feet earlier this year and had qualified for the U.S. team that will compete in the World Championships Aug. 29-Sept. 6 in Rome. Green, however, had told U.S. officials previously that he would not compete in Rome because of a stomach muscle injury.
Besides discussing the discovery of probenecine, Vazquez Rana used the news conference to try to clarify conflicting statements that have been made concerning drug testing at the Games.
The acting head of the PASO medical commission, Dr. Eduardo DeRose of Brazil, has said throughout the games that not all medalists in every individual event will be tested. Vazquez Rana, however, had insisted that all individual medalists had been and would be tested. But Vazquez Rana finally admitted Tuesday that he had been mistaken and that not all medalists had been tested.
Not all medalists were tested in at least two major sports--swimming and track.
Despite Vazquez Rana's attempt to clarify the issue, confusion continued.
He gave various estimates, for instance, as to the number of medalists who had not been tested, ranging to a high of 3%, and admitted that there were "certain shortcomings in the processing of four or five tests."
"The problem is not with the lab; the lab is excellent," he said. "The problem stems from the infrastructure."
Vazquez Rana also blamed poor translation to English from Spanish for many of the discrepancies between his statements and those by DeRose.
But Vazquez Rana was contradicted again Tuesday by a PASO official after calling probenecine "one of the most dangerous drugs we've ever seen." Dr. Fidel Mendoza, the PASO treasurer from Colombia, said later in the news conference, "He seems to be more alarmed than I am."