Athletics: Drug row could bar US officials from Olympics

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USA track And Field officials could be barred from next summer's Athens Olympics if they continue to refuse to cooperate in the investigation into Jerome Young's four-year- old doping case.

The IOC executive board decided yesterday to consider denying accreditation to USATF administrators if they fail to explain why Young was exonerated after testing positive for steroids in 1999. "That's definitely one possibility," an IOC board member, Thomas Bach, said.

Young won a gold medal in the 4x400 metres relay at the 2000 Sydney Games. If the IOC finds he was improperly cleared, Young and the rest of the team - including Michael Johnson - could be stripped of the medals.

The IOC opened disciplinary proceedings in the case in late September, but has been frustrated by USATF's refusal to provide full information on the appeals' panel decision which cleared Young.

Bach said the IOC sent another letter to the US Olympic Committee yesterday asking officials to put more pressure on USATF to supply the necessary documents. Bach said the IOC had set no deadline, preferring to let the USOC deal directly with the USATF.

Under international rules, a confirmed steroid offence is punishable by a minimum ban of two years - which would have ruled Young out of the Sydney Olympics. Young, the world 400m champion, has said he never committed a doping offence. The USOC notified the IOC in September that Young was the previously unidentified Sydney gold medallist who had tested positive for steroids but was cleared to run in the games.

USATF has repeatedly refused to supply information on the case, citing confidentiality rules in place at the time. USATF also says it is bound by an international arbitration court ruling upholding its right to maintain secrecy in previous doping acquittals.

"They are saying he's been exonerated," the IOC president, Jacques Rogge, said this week. "We are saying, 'prove it and tell us why he was exonerated'."

Another senior IOC official investigating the Young case expressed scepticism over USATF's plan to impose life bans for first-time steroid offenders. The "zero tolerance" plan was approved by USATF's board of directors on Wednesday and will be voted on by the full membership tomorrow.

"It's a bit strange," said Denis Oswald, a Swiss IOC executive board member. "Suddenly they want to be more strict than any other federation. For the future they want to be tough, but they don't want to look at the past. They recognise the past might create difficulties and they want to close the door."