Drugs in sport: Italians probe Olympic top men

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ITALIAN MAGISTRATES yesterday formally placed the former head of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) under investigation regarding the alleged distribution of banned drugs dangerous to health.

Judicial sources in the northern town of Ferrara said that Mario Pescante, who unexpectedly resigned as CONI's chairman last month saying he wanted to restore calm to an organisation hit by a major doping scandal, had been told he was under investigation.

The investigation also included Francesco Conconi, an Italian sports medicine expert and a member of the International Olympic Committee's anti-doping commission, and his former aide, Michele Ferrari, another sports doctor.

Judicial sources said a number of searches had been ordered and documents dating back to 1982 had been taken from Conconi's office. The Italian government recently set up a commission of inquiry into flawed doping tests conducted by CONI, which oversees sport in Italy. The tests followed allegations by the Roma coach, Zdenek Zeman, that drug-taking was rife in Serie A. Earlier this month, Pescante was officially placed under investigation in a separate inquiry into alleged abuse of office.

Meanwhile, major league baseball plans to ban the use of androstenedione, the muscle-building dietary supplement used by the home-run champion Mark McGwire, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported yesterday. The newspaper cited unidentified sources, who said they expect the commissioner, Bud Selig, to formally announce a ban before next season.

"I would hate to be in McGwire's shoes right now," said Dr William Bryan, the team physician for the Houston Astros and ex-president of the American Association of Professional Team Physicians. "We have just been shaking our heads all this time that androstenedione was on the shelves."