The U.S. Olympic Committee has imposed “no sanction” on “approximately 50% of all the American athletes who have tested positive for prohibited substances,” the USOC’s recently resigned anti-doping chief says.
In a statement issued by his attorneys as an apparent prelude to a lawsuit, Dr. Wade Exum also reiterated his claim--first made public last week upon word of his abrupt resignation--that the USOC “is surreptitiously encouraging the doping of United States athletes.”
The statement did not provide details to support either allegation.
USOC officials Wednesday disputed Exum’s claims and again asserted that they were odd coming from the man who for the last nine years was responsible for heading the USOC’s anti-doping campaign.
“Dr. Exum has before made sweeping allegations about his own programs at the USOC, or about our current programs,” USOC spokesman Mike Moran said. “He at some point is going to have to back that up with facts.”
Exum, 51, resigned June 5 as the USOC’s director of drug control administration. In his resignation letter, made public last Wednesday, he said the USOC was “deliberately encouraging” the doping of athletes “without regard to the consequences to their health.”
In that letter, Exum, an African American, also charged that he had become a “racial token.” He did not return a phone call Wednesday seeking comment.
USOC officials have previously denied that Exum’s race played any role in his job.
With the Sydney Olympics now less than three months away, meantime, his resignation letter has focused attention again on the USOC’s commitment to banning the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Senior USOC officials have said the agency, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., is resolutely committed to the anti-doping fight.
The USOC’s many critics have long alleged that there’s too much at stake for the USOC to be serious about policing itself--meaning Olympic medals, national prestige and funding possibilities.
Dr. Don Catlin, who runs a UCLA lab that does drug testing for the International Olympic Committee, said Wednesday he needs more specifics regarding Exum’s allegations.
“Now, Wade has been there for 10 years and he’s seen a lot,” said Catlin. “But I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that 50% of the results are buried.”
Catlin, one of the world’s foremost experts in athletes’ use of banned substances, said his hesitation is based in part on a change in drug-testing protocol.
For many years, Catlin said, any positive test of a U.S. athlete went from the lab to the USOC, whose responsibility it was to forward the result to the IOC and the international federation governing that particular sport.
But after the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, as officials became concerned about the possibility that positive tests could be discarded, the routine was changed. Testing labs now send positive results to the USOC, the IOC and the governing body.
“In theory, if someone wants to bury a test, it would have to go on simultaneously in three different places,” Catlin said.
Furthermore, Catlin said, some positive results do not result in sanctions because they merely indicate that more testing needs to be done on the athlete in question.
Exum’s statement, issued late Tuesday by one of his attorneys, Denver lawyer John W. McKendree, makes a series of additional allegations in explaining why Exum resigned:
The statement says, for instance, that Exum was asked to take part in a project “using a protocol that amounts to racial profiling.”
The USOC last week acknowledged its involvement in an Australian project seeking a test for the banned hormone EPO, which can increase endurance, saying it had provided a cross-section of U.S. athletes. But the USOC rejected the “racial profiling” label as “irresponsible and inaccurate.”
In his statement, Exum also said his authority was undermined by having to work under the supervision of Jim Page, currently the USOC’s managing director of sport services.
Page was implicated in a 1987 blood-doping incident involving a U.S. Nordic skier, which led to a ban imposed by skiing’s governing body that lasted for three years. The USOC, Moran said, also took “appropriate” sanctions; he added that Exum had not reported directly to Page for the last three years.