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Olympic Notebook : Drug Report Surprises U.S. Team Physician

Times Staff Writer

The cover story on the September issue of California Magazine was about a sleeping pill. The headline: “Halcion Madness . . . The Frightening Truth About America’s Number One Sleeping Pill.”

The article, by San Francisco writer Cindy Ehrlich, described her own adverse reactions to the drug. She cited “studies” of Halcion that resulted in reactions ranging from severe anxiety to people turning somersaults in parking lots.

As for her own experience, she said she had crying spells and such a severe inability to deal with bad news that she was able to watch only “children’s and nature shows” on television. She also reported experiencing an acute anticipation of “flying saucers” about to land.

This all comes as news to the chief physician of the U.S. Olympic team. It turns out that Halcion, made by Upjohn, has been prescribed for years for U.S. athletes competing overseas as a medication to alleviate the effects of jet lag.

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“We’re not prescribing Halcion for our athletes in Seoul, but the only reason is, we happen to be using something else,” Dr. James Puffer said. “But we’ve used Halcion in the past, and as far as I know, no one has ever had a negative reaction to it. It’s not at all on the banned list, although it’s an illegal drug for shooters.”

NBC is vigorously opposing the use of two rings for preliminary rounds of the Games’ mammoth boxing tournament, which begins Saturday. It is expected that more than 500 boxers, a record, will be entered when the tournament draw is held Friday. In the 1984 Games at Los Angeles, there were 359 boxers.

“If there are two rings, we could get into some awful situations with our telecasts,” said NBC spokesman Kevin Monaghan.

Toughest ticket in Seoul? That’s easy--Saturday’s opening ceremony.

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The original blocks of tickets that went on sale to the public here were scaled from $40 to $200, but scalpers reportedly have been getting up to $5,000. Moreover, huge sections of seats were bought up by South Korean corporations, which have given the tickets to major customers.

In an effort to allow as many South Koreans as possible to at least see what the ceremony will look like, organizers opened the doors for Wednesday’s rehearsal. An estimated 70,000 attended the rehearsal at the 100,000-seat main stadium.

Reportedly, people who would not have been able to afford tickets were brought in from rural areas to see the rehearsal. And the price was right. No charge.

Ira Rosenfeld, a Korea Herald columnist, had some fun with the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee (SLOOC) memo that was sent to the 21,000 runners participating in the Olympic torch relay. The memo included a hint for runners to hold the torch near the bottom, because the top part of the torch “has a tendency to get very hot.”

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Wrote Rosenfeld: “If you have to remind someone to hold the end of the torch that is not on fire, do you really want this person running through your neighborhood with a burning flame?”

The Associated Press reported that U.S. athletes were so upset about a plan by organizers to limit the size of teams marching in the opening ceremony--effectively leaving out about half of the 611-member American team--that they threatened to boycott the ceremony.

Within hours, though, the International Olympic Committee and SLOOC released a statement saying any athlete who wanted to take part could do so.

Abdi Bile, the 1500 meter champion at the 1987 World Track and Field Championships in Rome, has been forced to withdraw as a result of a stress fracture in his upper left leg.

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A two-time NCAA 1500-meter champion from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., the Somalian native had been experiencing problems in his left calf and ankle earlier this summer.

In addition, Mats Wilander, the No. 1 ranked tennis player in the world, as expected has withdrawn from the Games, citing a leg injury.


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