Crack in the Code

Special to the Times

Meeting last week in Copenhagen, the World Anti-Doping Agency passed the first global anti-doping code. It could ultimately mark a turning point in the campaign to stop the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the Olympic Games and other sporting events.

Unclear, however, is whether the code will have a far-reaching impact in the United States. Though individual athletes in U.S. pro leagues, such as NBA stars selected to play in the 2004 Athens Olympics, fall under the code, the leagues themselves -- the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball -- and thus hundreds of other high-profile athletes, do not.

Moreover, because of disputes involving drug tests of track and field athletes in recent years, some influential Olympic and sports officials in other countries have come to view U.S. efforts in the anti-doping campaign with increasing suspicion.

At the meeting in Copenhagen, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge made plain that position: "The U.S. is one of the most difficult countries for anti-doping in sport. There is a culture in the U.S. where individual freedom is so strong that out-of-competition testing is more difficult. Also, there is the hands-off attitude of the government toward sports. They now have to legislate on sports."

In the accompanying stories, Canadian Richard W. Pound, chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency and a member of the IOC, and Craig A. Masback , chief executive of USA Track & Field, debate U.S. policies.

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POINT

Stonewalling has become the new American Way, with ethics and credibility the primary casualties.

By Richard W. Pound

Special to the Times

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For years, USA Track & Field stonewalled the international governing body for track and field, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations.

It deliberately hid positive results of drug tests on American athletes from the IAAF, resolutely refusing to provide details. It said the results were confidential and that, despite the clear rules of the IAAF requiring disclosure of positive tests, it would not, could not, provide the names of the athletes involved. USATF said it had rules of confidentiality.

Indeed, it claimed, the laws of the United States forbade it from providing the required information.

At the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, U.S. shotputter C.J. Hunter was given an athlete's credential, even though he had tested positive for drug use on four occasions. USATF did not itself issue the credential -- that was the job of Sydney Olympic authorities -- but it did not advise the U.S. Olympic Committee of these positive tests. Moreover, USATF nominated Hunter to the U.S. team four days after learning of a first positive test.

It was only when reports of the positive tests and his accreditation as part of the U.S. Olympic delegation appeared in the media that USATF responded.

Under the pressure of public attention and outrage, it announced the appointment of an independent commission of inquiry to investigate that, and many other, allegations.

The commission, funded in large measure by the USOC, conducted an 11-month investigation and provided its report to USATF. But, extraordinarily, USATF disavowed most of the conclusions reached by its own commission. Denial was the name of the game. USATF's professed desire for an independent investigation proved to be an illusion.

Only the threat of suspension by the IAAF, plus the possibility of decertification and replacement as the governing body recognized by the USOC, prompted USATF to eventually agree to submit its position for determination by the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The issue: Was it correct that only after USATF had made a secret determination of whether a U.S. athlete had been guilty of doping would the name of the athlete be disclosed to the IAAF?

Until that time, USATF refused to disclose to the IAAF even that there was a possible doping offense, in spite of clear rules that required such disclosure.

USATF simply told the IAAF that its rules prevented such disclosure and that U.S. law also prevented disclosure.

A case was set down for hearing by CAS late last year. There the question was framed in two parts. First, was USATF required to disclose the names of athletes with positive tests to the IAAF under rules that govern all national federations? Second, was there any good reason why the names of 13 athletes who had secretly been exonerated from positive doping tests should not be disclosed? (Such tests search for a wide variety of substances that can enhance performance, including -- but not limited to -- steroids.)

The answer to the first question was yes. The rules were quite clear and there was no justifiable reason why USATF should not provide the names of the athletes involved, as called for under IAAF rules. The procedural obstacles raised by USATF were without merit. No U.S. law prevented such disclosure. USATF was exposed as having adopted a position without legal merit.

On the second question, the tactical position of USATF, that of being relentlessly stubborn in the face of a rule found to be eminently clear, proved successful.

A divided CAS panel -- inflicting serious damage to the fight against doping in sport -- concluded that because the IAAF had not dealt with USATF in American terms, by identifying the particulars of the rules that USATF had systematically breached, the IAAF had lost the opportunity to get the information on the athletes who had tested positive for drug use.

The CAS panel decided that the athletes -- however guilty -- were entitled to believe that their cases were completed, despite USATF's disregard of the rules, and could not now be considered by the IAAF.

This decision demonstrated, unfortunately, that if a national federation stonewalls long enough -- in the face of polite insistence on observation of rules, the purpose of which is abundantly clear -- it can succeed in protecting athletes who may be guilty of drug use.

At least one of the athletes involved now has an Olympic gold medal. Other athletes have been cheated from what should have been the result of clean competition. The U.S. -- a vocal leader in the campaign for clean and ethical sport -- is now tainted in that role, as a result of one of its major national governing bodies' conduct. It looks to the world as if the U.S. is willing to preach, but not to practice. USATF is dragging down both America and the struggle for drug-free sport.

There is a way out.

If the athletes involved are convinced of their innocence they should show their commitment to drug-free sport, declare themselves, and stand by the process that exonerated them.

If USATF is fully satisfied with its procedures, now fixed with the knowledge that its position of apparent principle has been exposed as one without substance, it should, in the interests of transparency, disclose what it has done. Failure to do so merely increases a justifiable suspicion that it acted to protect guilty conduct.

The USOC, which is fully aware of the identities of the athletes involved, and as the final arbiter of the Olympic spirit of fair play in the U.S., should require USATF, one of its member governing bodies, to disclose the names. If USATF refuses, the USOC should occupy moral high ground and make the disclosures itself. Failure to do so will demonstrate that the USOC condones such conduct. It will put the USOC in the same gutter as USATF. This would be a serious blow to Olympic values in the U.S.

Either the U.S. is opposed to the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport, or it is not.

There is no middle ground.

Rhetoric without action makes a sham of ethical values. Not only have other athletes been cheated out of their Olympic dreams, but also other American athletes who competed fairly have been cheated out of representing their country at the Olympic Games. They deserve, as do all Americans, to know the truth and all the facts. They should insist. That should be the American way. Unless that way has been lost.

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COUNTERPOINT

The U.S., rightfully held to a higher standard, continues to be at the forefront in rooting out drug cheats.

By Craig A. Masback

Special to The Times

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Dick Pound should be feeling good. After four years of administrative foul-ups, foot-dragging, arm-twisting and threats, his World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has finally passed its code. Although the code is weaker than many of us advocated, it offers hope that all sports, not just track and field, will subject their athletes to comprehensive drug-testing controls for the first time.

Oddly, Pound chooses this moment to lash out at USA Track & Field, recycling old, discredited accusations and showing an astonishing lack of respect for rules integral to the credibility of his own drug-testing regime by disrespecting the decision of an organization, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), that is part of WADA's own adjudicatory system.

Beginning in 1989, USATF administered the most far-reaching and comprehensive domestic drug-testing program in track and field. Our system performed as many as 2,000 tests a year, and punished more athletes for doping offenses than any other national organization of our kind -- more than 120 in the course of a decade.

Sadly, USATF was one of a few international track and field federations -- reportedly fewer than 20 -- to conduct random, unannounced, out-of-competition domestic drug testing, a so-called "condition of membership" in track's international governing body, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations. With more than 200 member countries in the IAAF, that meant that numerous Olympic medals in track and field were won by countries without any domestic anti-doping program, among them Morocco, Kenya, Jamaica and Ethiopia.

Pound now takes issue with USATF procedures nearly 2 1/2 years after we got out of the anti-doping business altogether. We handed over all testing and adjudication responsibilities to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in 2000.

Casting aside Pound's rhetoric, the facts are these: USATF strongly opposes drug use in sport, and contrary to his claims, we have been at the forefront of rooting out drug cheats, dating to 1989. Our groundbreaking program was developed in the aftermath of the Ben Johnson scandal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, where Pound acted as one of Johnson's legal advocates before the IOC Medical Commission.

Because we are the world's No. 1 track and field team, we were and are rightfully held to a higher standard than other countries. Our system had its faults, but it was the best that existed at the time.

The media frenzy surrounding USATF first started at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, when various international sports politicians, including IOC presidential candidate Pound, accused USATF of "covering up" positive drug tests. Those accusations were found to be false by an independent panel, known as the McClaren Commission. The politicians, including Pound, accused USATF of covering up the positive drug tests of shotputter C.J. Hunter. The commission found that it was the IAAF that had administered the tests and that the IAAF, not USATF, had failed to disclose Hunter's positives.

It was just another example of how, when it comes to anti-doping activities, sensationalism and attacking the U.S. are the surest ways to draw headlines.

Pound now tries to stir up a tempest regarding USATF's relationship with the IAAF, even though both organizations have said that any previous disputes have been resolved and that, because of USADA, we anticipate no more such disputes.

Again, the facts are clear. On Jan. 10, CAS concluded that USATF's maintaining the confidentiality of athletes who were found not to have committed a doping offense was proper. USATF had repeatedly explained its anti-doping protocols to the IAAF and had asked for explanations of the IAAF's own protocols but had never received any clarification.

Pound accuses USATF of "stonewalling" the IAAF, but CAS came to exactly the opposite conclusion. CAS described "the deafening silence on the part of the IAAF," and noted with frustration the IAAF's "inaction in the face of USATF's repeated attempts to have the IAAF spell out clearly the nature of the problem." Thus, CAS concluded that USATF had acted in good faith.

The "13 cases" involved in the CAS dispute that Pound chooses to focus on? The IAAF, in its original brief to CAS, chose to make its argument more colorful by listing a number of cases about which it had "questions" for the period 1996 to 2000.

Once we explained to the IAAF that the majority of these cases involved IOC-accredited lab errors, "B" samples not confirming "A" samples, and samples where the "A" was never declared positive, the IAAF let us know that even if we lost the CAS arbitration, they were unlikely to have questions about more than two or three cases.

An essential component of the anti-doping movement is athlete confidence in the process, since the athletes lose the most by not having a level playing field.

The irony of Pound's recent attacks on USATF is that he risks undermining the long-term viability of his own organization by jeopardizing that confidence. After all, his own organization, WADA, refers disputed doping cases to the CAS, whose authority all Olympic international sports organizations are bound to respect.

By questioning a well-reasoned CAS decision, isn't he jeopardizing the faith of athletes in his own organization and, by extension, the global anti-doping movement?

That is a question for athletes, and the public, to decide.

*(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

New Tools in Battle of the Banned

These are some of the key points of the first global anti-doping code enacted last week in Copenhagen:

* A first violation means a two-year suspension, allowing for "exceptional circumstances." A second violation leads to a lifetime ban.

* Drug violations during competition lead to automatic disqualification and the loss of any medals.

* An athlete is responsible for any banned substance in his or her body, regardless of how it got there.

* An exemption may be granted if an athlete has a documented medical condition requiring the use of a banned substance.

* In contesting a positive drug finding, an athlete carries the burden of proof.

* A substance will be on the banned list if it meets two of three criteria: It enhances performance. It poses a health risk. It violates the "spirit of sport."

* The banned list will be revised regularly.

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