Voy Claims USOC Muzzled Him in Drug Fight
Five years of fighting the epidemic of drugs in sport and the often more vicious political battles with sports administrators took their toll on Dr. Robert Voy. The United States Olympic Committee’s chief medical officer announced his resignation earlier this week, saying his back was to the wall.
Voy’s resignation was not unexpected, given the mounting tension between him and USOC leadership.
Voy has been this country’s high-profile anti-drug campaigner in amateur sport, a position that often left him at odds with his own superiors at the USOC and caused friction with several national governing bodies. Many thought Voy too outspoken and critical of administrators.
Voy’s resignation, effective next Friday, could not have come at a more pivotal time for amateur sport. With the Dubin Inquiry in Canada peeling back layers of information about drug use among elite athletes, Voy’s harsh assessment of the state of amateur sport seems to have been painfully accurate.
“This has not been a decision that I have come to easily or on the spur of the moment,” Voy said Friday from his office in Colorado Springs. “It’s been one that started a year ago.”
Voy said it was only coincidence that he tendered his resignation during the Canadian hearings. He said, however, that he welcomed the public awareness brought by the sensational testimony of Charlie Francis, coach of banned sprinter Ben Johnson.
“I’m delighted,” Voy said. “It’s a vindication of things I’ve spoken about in generalities. Now they are coming out. I feel good that I haven’t had to break my ethical code in not pointing a finger. I refuse to point a finger.”
Voy, 55, resigned after having spent five years and one month in the job that was created for him in 1984 by F. Don Miller, then-USOC executive director. Since then, Voy has run afoul of many national governing bodies, especially The Athletics Congress--which governs track and field--when he revealed at a media seminar last summer that an unspecified number of track and field athletes had tested positive during the Olympic trials.
The USOC announced a few days later that the athletes in question had tested positive for trace amounts of stimulants, of the kind commonly found in cold preparations. The use was ruled inadvertent.
Voy told the Chicago Tribune Thursday that a dozen other tests showing steroid positives were dismissed on technicalities.
“For an organization that has been as outspoken in an anti-drug stance not to be able to accept a person who is outspoken on the same issues, is a fundamental contradiction in terms,” he said.
“My regret for the Olympic Committee and the federation leadership was that they were unable to take the heat from what I was saying--having an honest and factual basis for my statements--rather than muzzle, criticize or degrade me. My objective was not to point fingers but to alert people that there were problems.”
That was precisely what got Voy into trouble at the USOC. In an interview with The Times in late January, Voy admitted that he didn’t believe the USOC was sincere about curbing the use of performance-enhancing drugs among athletes.
He said he has been increasingly left out of the informational loop, including being shut out of a ground-breaking agreement regarding reciprocal drug-testing with the Soviets.
“I helped get that on the table,” he said.
Whatever relationship he had with USOC officials deteriorated to the point that he had no communication at all with USOC President Robert Helmick.
“I haven’t spoken with him since Seoul,” Voy said.
Voy was also unhappy with recent USOC budget cutbacks for sports science and medicine.
“I just saw myself in a situation where I no longer had the kind of input I wanted,” he said. “I’m just not involved. I regret having to leave, but I think my back is to the wall.”
Voy has accepted a postion as medical director of the Las Vegas Institute of Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine. He said he will begin work there April 3.
He said he would like to remain active in amateur boxing, “my true love.”
Voy repeated his interest in establishing a drug-testing center where athletes, having passed a test, could be certified as being drug-free. He said it is time for sports administrators to take more responsibility for the epidemic of drug use.
“It’s time to get off the back of athletes and coaches,” Voy said. “Drugs work. Until the administrators can assure the athletes that they can provide a level playing field, (athletes) will continue to take drugs.”