Drugs in sport: Retesting of world championship samples reveals more THG abuse

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The Independent Online

The re-testing of samples taken from athletes at this summer's World Championships in Paris has thrown up one, or possibly two positive findings for the performance enhancing drug tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), a source at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) indicated yesterday.

With 90 per cent of the 400 samples already processed, the athletes adversely indicated had either already tested positive for THG or belonged to a group linked with the Balco lab suspected of being the source for the so-called designer steroid. The one definite positive from Paris is thought to relate to a US athlete.

The news will come as something of a mixed blessing for the sport's world governing body on the eve of the two-day Council meeting which begins today in Berlin. The fight against doping tops the agenda, and it is expected that an official figure for the Paris re-testing will be released, although the IAAF will not be naming names.

Five athletes, including Britain's European 100 metres champion Dwain Chambers, are reported to have tested positive for THG.

Several leading track athletes and baseball players, among them the triple Olympic sprint champion Marion Jones and her partner Tim Montgomery, the world 100m record holder, have already testified before a grand jury investigating Balco. More will follow.

"No one can deny that this THG scandal is something new, something terrible," the IAAF president, Lamine Diack, said before the Berlin meeting. "It is a conspiracy of cheating which probably also involves organised crime. The IAAF must show strong leadership now and fight back with every available means to protect the integrity and perhaps the future of our sport."

Possible anti-doping rule changes will be discussed in Berlin. Some member federations believe the IAAF should reintroduce harsher penalties and revert to a minimum four-year ban for a major doping offence instead of the two-year suspension which the ruling body moved back to in 1997.

The much criticised anti-doping policy of the United States is also likely be discussed in the German capital. Dick Pound, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said this week that he wanted the US to be turned into a "sports pariah" unless it took the issue more seriously.

Pound said he was dismayed at the White House's recent funding cuts to Wada and the relatively light penalties being handed out by Major League Baseball and the NFL for positive steroid tests. The US's contributions to Wada have dropped from $1m (£700,000) to $800,000.

Pound said he would consider urging Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, to persuade member federations to remove all international competitions from the US unless they improve their record on doping.

A senior United States Olympic official responded yesterday by assuring the IOC that his country was committed to the fight against drugs.

In an open letter to Rogge, Bill Martin said: "I can assure you the United States Olympic Committee and the United States Anti-Doping Agency share your assessment of the importance of this matter. This matter should in no way become a barrier to the New York City 2012 Olympic bid effort."