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Olympic Scene / Atlanta 1996 : Doping Issue Resurfaces in China, Coaches Allege East German Link

TIMES STAFF WRITER

While China is making veiled threats about boycotting the Summer Olympics because of the possibility of Taiwanese leaders attending the Games in Atlanta, it has a potentially more damaging situation at home.

Two Chinese swim coaches working in Thailand said the country has adopted the East German drug program, the first public acknowledgment of widespread doping in a country that won 12 of 16 gold medals in women’s swimming at the 1994 World Championships in Rome.

FINA, the international governing body for swimming, increased its penalties for first-time steroid offenders from two to four years in response to a worldwide outcry against the Chinese women.

At the 1994 Asian Games, 11 Chinese athletes, including seven swimmers, tested positive for banned substances. Many were sanctioned for taking a new form of the male hormone testosterone that was previously undetected by standard drug testing.

Chinese coaches Ren Chun Sheng and Tien Sac Tia told the Associated Press that East German coaches helped develop the Chinese program, which became the world’s strongest this decade.

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“It’s bad,” Tien said. “It hurts the swimmers.”

China has denied that there is systematic drug use in swimming, calling allegations a Western conspiracy. Shi Kang, director of China’s anti-doping committee, said the China Olympic Committee has intensified it drug-testing program since the Asian Games.

FINA officials toured China last March, but concluded widespread drug use was exaggerated by coaches jealous of the Chinese success.

“This completely contradicts what the first FINA investigatory commission found,” said John Leonard, vice president of the World Swimming Coaches Assn., the most outspoken group against the Chinese.

“How much smoke does FINA need to see that our house is burning down?”

FACTOID

The 1996 Summer Olympics are not confined to Atlanta or even Georgia. Events will be held in nine cities in four states and Washington D.C.

NEWSMAKER

Angel Martino understands the plight of Jessica Foschi, the Long Island teenager who might be banned today for two years when U.S. Swimming’s board of directors concludes its hearing regarding her positive test for an anabolic steroid.

Eight years after Martino was kicked off the 1988 Olympic team for testing positive for a steroid, she still proclaims her innocence. Although she returned to the sport and won a gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay and a bronze in the 50 free at Barcelona, Martino said talking about her experience is difficult.

Echoing many of the complaints of Foschi’s parents, Martino’s father and coach, Kirk Myers, said the ordeal was exasperating.

“There is just no way to defend yourself,” he said. “They won’t give you the sample to test, they won’t give you the paperwork. They won’t give you anything at all.”

Martino, then Angel Myers, was dropped from the Olympic team after testing positive for Nandrolone at the U.S. trials. She claimed throughout an appeals process that the use of a birth-control pill triggered the positive result.

“I certainly am in favor of drug testing,” Kirk Myers said. "[But] it is important to get some sort of equitable system where you can at least have the sample tested. You can’t get a second opinion. You don’t have any rights. It’s all a facade.”

Martino, 28, is a strong contender to make the ’96 team at the U.S. trials March 6-12 in Indianapolis.

LAUREL WREATH

George Steinbrenner--really--has been a father figure to swimmer Ron Karnaugh, 29, whose father died in the stands during the Opening Ceremonies at the Barcelona Olympics. Karnaugh, who took a year off from medical school to try to make the 1996 Olympic team after finishing a disappointing sixth in ’92, said the New York Yankee owner has given him about $40,000 to help pay for his education. "[Steinbrenner] was there for me and showed a great deal of compassion,” said Karnaugh, one of the country’s best in the 200-meter individual medley.

THORN WREATH

After last week’s try to pressure the United States not to invite high Taiwanese officials to the Summer Olympics, we’ve lost count of China’s threats to boycott Atlanta. Didn’t the Chinese learn from 1980 and ’84 that Olympic boycotts hurt only the athletes from the countries that are boycotting? The Atlanta Games will go on whether China is there or not.

THIS WEEK

More than 250 Olympic hopefuls will compete in the U.S. Boxing Championships that began Sunday and run through Friday in Colorado Springs, Colo. Gold and silver medalists in each of the 12 weight classes are guaranteed berths in the April 2-7 Olympic trials in Oakland. Among five boxers attempting to win back-to-back titles is flyweight Pedro Pena of Los Angeles.

Olympic Scene Notes

Another comeback: Mary Slaney is scheduled to run an indoor race Friday in Idaho. If she feels fit afterward, she plans to enter the mile in the Feb. 24 L.A. Invitational indoor meet at the Sports Arena. . . . The U.S. men’s Olympic marathon trials are scheduled for Saturday in Charlotte, N.C. . . . In an effort to prevent track and field athletes from switching to other countries, Russia’s federation for the sport is offering $50,000 to those who win gold medals in Atlanta and their coaches. The impetus was the recent unsuccessful attempt by Lyudmila Narozhilenko, the 100-meter hurdle world champion in 1991, to gain Swedish citizenship. She is married to a Swede.

North Carolina sprinter/long jumper Marion Jones, two-time national track and field high school athlete of the year at Thousand Oaks, re-injured the left foot that she broke last August and will miss the indoor season. . . . Great Britain’s Sally Gunnell, who lost her world record in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles to American Kim Batten while sitting out last season because of a foot injury, is competing indoors. One competitor Gunnell will not have to worry about is France’s Marie-Jose Perec, who trains in Westwood. Her coach, John Smith, said that Perec will concentrate this year on defending her Olympic 400-meter title. . . . The draw for this year’s Olympic basketball tournament will be held in Atlanta on Tuesday. . . . Austria, Italy and Slovenia will make an unprecedented bid to jointly host the 2006 Winter Olympics in the bordering towns of Arnoldstein, Austria; Tarvisio, Italy; and Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. . . . Remaining Olympic tickets can be purchased from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. ACOG will accept only Visa cards for payment. To order, call 404-744-1996.

Times staff writer Randy Harvey contributed to this story.


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