Conte suspicious of Caribbean success

Times Staff Writer

Before writing the letter that British sprinter Dwain Chambers presented to anti-doping authorities about Chambers' deceptive practices, BALCO founder Victor Conte sounded alarms about the Olympic track and field success of Caribbean countries, including sprint power Jamaica.

Conte said that he urged the World Anti-Doping Agency to investigate drug testing and supervision of athletes in Caribbean nations that lack an independent, state-run anti-doping body.

Conte, who served a prison term connected to the scandal that arose at BALCO, said he met in December with then-WADA director Dick Pound and detailed allegations of illicit behavior. He declined to elaborate.

"To see the fastest people in the world coming from one island [Jamaica], I'm highly suspicious," Conte said this week. "I believe there's rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs in the Caribbean."

Pound said Friday he thought Conte's "information was good, and that we should follow up."

But Pound left office two weeks after meeting with Conte and said he did not know if the agency had investigated. Current WADA director David Howman declined to elaborate on how his organization responded to Conte's information via Pound.

Conte complained that elite athletes in the Caribbean countries too often easily avoided out-of-competition drug testing in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Jamaican officials did not immediately respond to voice messages and e-mails from The Times about Conte's call for a probe.

Herb Elliot, a Jamaican member of the IAAF's Medical and Anti-Doping Commission and top enforcement official in the country, told the Christian Science Monitor last month, "We are far in advance of the U.S. record for [preventing] doping. We preach, cajole, and test. . . . Sports is such a part of our culture that the disgrace [of doping] is so great that the Jamaicans that live here wouldn't even consider it."

On Friday, Mike Fennell, president of the Jamaica Olympic Assn., told the Jamaica Observer: "All our top athletes who are continuously performing abroad are tested every time they compete in these big meets abroad . . . so anybody who wants to make comments about our attention to testing, our anti-doping measures are doing that with malicious attempt and are just being bad-minded because we are good. And people don't like when we are good."

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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