Athletics: US authority approves drug bans

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The Independent Online

Delegates from the governing body of US athletics, USA Track & Field, yesterday approved overwhelmingly a lifetime ban for athletes who test positive for steroids, but the policy will not take effect until questions about its legality are resolved.

Because the zero-tolerance plan imposes penalties tougher than those mandated by the International Associations of Athletics Federations, USATF has asked the world governing body to make sure the new rule is acceptable.

"If the IAAF gave us permission to do this tomorrow, the lifetime ban would go into effect immediately," said the USATF president, Bill Roe.

USATF rules now call for a two-year ban for first-time steroid offenders. Under the plan approved yesterday, first-time offenders and their coaches could face lifetime bans: "We want the rest of the world to adopt this so the whole Olympic movement will clean up," said the sprinter Jon Drummond, a USATF board member.

Since the summer, USATF has been embroiled in controversies over its handling of a 1999 positive steroid test by runner Jerome Young and athletes' use of the newly detected steroid THG. Young was cleared to compete despite a positive test, although he always denied committing an offence, and went on to win gold as part of the 4x400 metres relay team in Sydney.

The US Olympic Committee has threatened to strip USATF of its Olympic charter if it does not address doping and athlete conduct issues. Amid the concern over the sport's future, USATF's 25th annual meeting saw a record attendance of 1,120 coaches, athletes and officials.