Samples retested for THG

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The Independent Online

Athletes who tested positive for the designer steroid THG could get reduced bans if they provide information on anybody involved in a doping conspiracy, the sport's governing body said yesterday.

Athletes who tested positive for the designer steroid THG could get reduced bans if they provide information on anybody involved in a doping conspiracy, the sport's governing body said yesterday.

Five athletes are under investigation for use of THG, or tetrahydrogestrinone, and face minimum two–year suspensions if found guilty of doping violations.

The International Association of Athletics Federations has a rule allowing reduced sanctions for athletes offering "substantial assistance" in a doping inquiry.

"However, it is emphasised that only truly exceptional circumstances will justify any reduction," the rule states.

IAAF spokesman Nick Davies suggested British sprinter Dwain Chambers could get a ban cut to as little as one year in exchange for blowing the whistle on those supplying and using THG.

IAAF general secretary Istvan Gyulai said he wouldn't speculate on the likelihood of applying the rule in the THG cases. "This rule exists," he said. "I cannot exclude it as an option. But let's see why this doping existed and what exactly happened."

Gyulai said 18 athletes in the past four years have applied for reinstatement or shortened bans on grounds of "exceptional circumstances," with all but two cases rejected by the IAAF. "We are not like a public prosecutor offering a plea bargain," Gyulai said. "We don't do bargains. We just want a clean sport."

THG was uncovered last summer after a tip by an anonymous coach who provided the US Anti–Doping Agency with a used syringe containing the substance. The UCLA doping control laboratory identified the compound as a new steroid modified to evade detection and devised a test for it.

Four US athletes tested positive for THG at the national championships in June at Stanford, California. Chambers, the European 100–meter champion, tested positive in an out–of–competition control in Germany in August.

The IAAF confirmed that retesting of samples from the World Championships in Paris in August had begun. The 400 samples are being analyzed for THG at France's Olympic doping control lab.

Any positive findings would result in retroactive disqualifications, including stripping of any medals, and two–year bans.

Davies said the retesting could take up to three weeks. He said the IAAF expects "no more than a handful" of positive THG tests. "We expect a similar level or even fewer cases than at the US trials," he said. "It seems to be limited to certain individuals. The fact that it's the world championships is not going to make a big difference."

Chambers was suspended last Friday after analysis of his backup B sample confirmed his positive A test. The B test results of the American athletes, including 1,500–meter runner Regina Jabobs and shot putter Kevin Toth, haven't been announced.

Chambers' lawyer insisted on Friday that the sprinter has never taken performance enhancing drugs and would fight to clear his name. He previously blamed the positive test on supplements allegedly supplied by a California–based company at the center of a federal investigation.

Under international "strict liability" rules, athletes are considered responsible for any banned substance found in their body, regardless of whether they took it knowingly.

Dick Pound, chairman of the World Anti–Doping Agency, said he believes Chambers has no defense. "If Dwain Chambers had been captured by a squad of Nazi frogmen and held down and injected with this stuff, that would present an entirely different set of circumstances," Pound told The Guardian in an interview.

"'In the old days, it occasionally happened that an athlete was found innocent of wrongdoing after a positive test. Maybe they took a tablet for a cold. But now we're in the designer–drug era, the EPO era. There is not a hope in hell that, with Chambers, this is inadvertent."

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