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Europeans come on board IOC's drug agency plan

The European Union is ready to participate in the world anti-doping agency being launched next week by the International Olympic Committee, the EU sports commissioner said today.

The European Union is ready to participate in the world anti-doping agency being launched next week by the International Olympic Committee, the EU sports commissioner said today.

The 15-nation EU will have two representatives on the body and likely will nominate provisional members at the beginning of next week, Viviane Reding told reporters after meeting with the IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch.

The IOC plan has aroused strong opposition from US drug czar Barry McCaffrey, who sees it as a "unilateral" strategy which would preempt democratic decision-making and cut out the input of governments.

McCaffrey said last week the plan to establish the agency on 10 November as a Swiss foundation was made without proper consultation with governments and that the proposals on the table remained unacceptable.

The EU also has expressed misgivings, saying that it would do everything in its power to get the doping agency as soon as possible away from the IOC's home base of Lausanne.

"We have been able to eliminate the few difficulties we still see with the texts so far," Reding said after the meeting.

The EU and IOC agreed the agency should be set up on an "equal basis" with governments and sports organizations contributing an equal number of representatives to the board of directors.

"The IOC is not alone in this structure," Reding said.

Reding restated the Europeans' insistence that the Lausanne base be "only provisional" pending a bidding process to determine a permanent site. The EU is trying to overcome internal differences to avoid the agency staying at the IOC's home city.

"Lausanne isn't excluded," Samaranch said. "Lausanne also can be a candidate."

A final choice is not expected "before spring next year," Reding said. First, "the board has to meet and the board has to establish the rules for the cities who want to become the headquarters."

The list of candidate cities includes Athens, Greece; Bonn, Germany; Lille, France; Lisbon, Portugal; Luxembourg; Madrid, Spain; and Vienna, Austria.

Although founding members will be named next week, "it is very clear that the door is open after November 10 for all those who (would) like to join," Reding said. "The gaps will be filled by those parts of the world that have not yet given their agreement."

The number of board members remains open, she said. At present there will likely be 15 members from both governments and sporting organizations, but "we will find place for everybody who wants to join the agency on the board."

Both Samaranch and Reding said the door remained open for the United States, which has been pushing alternative plans for an independent agency, to come on board, but gave no specifics on how that might happen.

"The agency will be open to all the countries and we would be very pleased and very happy to have the United States with us," Samaranch said.

"I think the agency without the United States would not be complete," Reding said. "We do not want any federation or any group of countries to be left out."

The IOC says the agency, which is to supervise worldwide drug testing and policy, will be operational by 1 January 2000. The IOC has allocated $25m to finance the agency's first year of operation.

The IOC says it has no intention of monopolizing the new agency and would hold only three of what were expected to be 24 seats on the executive board.

McCaffrey says the IOC's proposed agency lacks full independence, transparency and accountability.