US Olympic medal winners 'took drugs'

A former director of the United States' Olympic drug-testing operation has claimed that several American athletes were allowed to compete and win medals at the Atlanta Games of 1996, even though they had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

A former director of the United States' Olympic drug-testing operation has claimed that several American athletes were allowed to compete and win medals at the Atlanta Games of 1996, even though they had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

At least six athletes who tested positive at the United States' pre-Olympic trials escaped sanction and then went on to compete at Atlanta with the full knowledge of the United States' Olympic Committee, according to Dr Wade Exum, the former director of the committee's Drug Control Administration.

In his resignation letter to the USOC, Dr Exum said the committee was "deliberately encouraging the doping of athletes, without regards to the consequences to their health".

Dr Exum claimed that he was asked on at least three occasions to alter the result of a drug test and described the way in which the committee dealt with athletes who tested positive for banned substances as "a sham process", adding that the complicity "went all the way to the top".

He said the number of athletes involved was "significant" but declined to identify them. While he also refused to say which drugs were involved, it is thought that one of them may have been ephedrine, a stimulant found in many flu remedies and regarded by the International Olympic Committee as a minor doping offence.

The claims have been rejected by the USOC. A spokesman for the organisation said: "So far the people making these allegations have not provided us with a single fact."

The timing of the accusations is awkward. The American selection trials for the Sydney Olympics are taking place and it is less than two months before the Games begin.

The allegations have been made in a lawsuit filed by Dr Exum, who is suing the USOC for racial discrimination and other grounds which include an accusation that the committee misrepresented its commitment to eradicate doping in the US Olympic movement.

Dr Exum said he had been prompted to make his accusations because of the damage that had been caused to the sport's reputation - and athletes' health - by the revelations about the systematic East German doping regime.

He said: "The East German policy got so far out of hand they thought it was worthwhile to jeopardise people's lives to get a blasted medal. I won't say I'm accusing the USOC of those things. I'm saying I can't rule it out."

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