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Athletics: De Merode defends Griffith Joyner

OLYMPIC OFFICIALS singled out Florence Griffith Joyner for rigorous drug-testing during the 1988 Seoul Games because of rumours that she used steroids, the International Olympic Committee's senior anti-doping official said yesterday.

However, Prince Alexandre de Merode, the chairman of the IOC medical commission, said Griffith Joyner had passed all the tests and it was unfair to suggest she was a drug user.

Griffith Joyner, who won three gold medals in Seoul and still holds world records in the 100 and 200 metres, died on Monday in California at the age of 38. There have been allegations that Griffith Joyner used performance- enhancing drugs, plus speculation that her death was linked to the long- term effects of steroids.

De Merode said he had assigned his top drug expert to test Griffith Joyner after she won the 100 and 200m in Seoul. "Since there were rumours at the time, we performed all possible and imaginable analyses on her," De Merode told the Brussels newspaper Le Soir. "We never found anything."

Germany's Manfred Donike, considered the world's foremost anti-doping expert, failed to discover even minute traces of doping products, De Merode added. "Let her rest in peace," he said. "The issue is closed."

Sebastian Coe, Britain's double 1500m Olympic gold medallist, agreed that it was unfair to conclude that Griffith Joyner used drugs. "I set a world record that lasted 18 years," he said. "People do make progress at rates that raise eyebrows."