McCaffrey accepts IOC invitation

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United States drugs czar Barry McCaffrey said he had accepted an offer to discuss the International Olympic Committee's new anti-doping agency with IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch.

United States drugs czar Barry McCaffrey said he had accepted an offer to discuss the International Olympic Committee's new anti-doping agency with IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Samaranch invited McCaffrey for talks after the White House's chief drug adviser said the new World Anti-Doping Agency was too closely linked to the IOC. The agency is run by IOC vice president Dick Pound and is temporarily based in Lausanne, Switzerland, the headquarters of the IOC.

'We accept the invitation of president Samaranch to begin a dialogue,' McCaffrey said. 'We are cautiously optimistic that real progress can be achieved. We welcome the IOC's offer to commence this process and will begin the planning for these talks immediately.'

McCaffrey later said he would likely send a team of experts to meet with IOC officials in Lausanne and did not immediately say when he would personally visit Samaranch.

'I am under no particular time pressure to do something,' he told reporters. 'And in addition I am going to be very careful not to ignore the viewpoint of the Canadians, the Australians and others and what comes out of this conference. Again, I do not think the United States wants to take a position - we want to be part of a consensus solution.'

The IOC insisted Monday that its new drug agency would operate independently and that the United States was misguided in fearing a conflict of interest.

'It looks to us as though it will be dominated by the IOC,' McCaffrey said Monday on the opening day of an international 'Drugs in Sports' summit in Sydney. 'That, to us, is unacceptable.'

But IOC vice president Kevan Gosper defended the agency before delegates from 26 nations attending the three-day summit, saying, 'Contrary to some public criticism, its structure ensures that it is truly independent.'

McCaffrey also was criticized by Prince Alexandre de Merode, chairman of the IOC medical commission.'Instead of insulting people, it is better to sit around the table and discuss,' de Merode said in Brussels. 'The reaction is hysterical and not constructive.'

WADA will have representatives from sports organizations, including the IOC, on its board as well as government officials. The IOC will have four seats on the board, which can have up to 35 members.

The United States supports a Canadian proposal to establish a steering committee, with members from all continents, to push for more government involvement in WADA.

Among other nations backing the plan are Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

John Coates, president of the Australian Olympic Committee, was angered by McCaffrey's criticism of the new drug agency. He called McCaffrey 'no friend of the Olympic movement' and tried to have him banned from Sydney's 2000 Olympics complex.

But Australian government and Sydney authorities distanced themselves from Coates' comments.McCaffrey and Coates met Tuesday in the lobby of the downtown hotel where the summit is being held.Trying to downplay the personal nature of their rift, McCaffrey described Coates as a 'four-star general in the fight against doping.' Before retiring from the US Army, McCaffrey was its youngest ever four-star general.

'It was very important to put it on the table that we in Australia have been less than impressed with the efforts of the Americans,' to stamp out doping in US sports, Coates said.

'I'm satisfied that General McCaffrey is certainly now intent to address those problems in both the professional and amateur sports categories.'

McCaffrey is promoting a program for an independent drug agency that would conduct year-round, no-notice testing for athletes, but US officials concede the WADA is the likely vehicle for such an agency.

Delegates are discussing the role they can play in the fight against drugs in sports. Among the topics to be discussed are international cooperation, testing regimens, drug trafficking and education.

'Our conversations with the IOC will be guided by the principles that we have helped forge with our international allies,' McCaffrey said.

'We will continue to work with the international community to ensure that the WADA that ultimately emerges is independent and effective in protecting the clean athletes of the world and the integrity of international sport.'