USA accused of suppressing doping tests

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The Independent Online

News that world shot put champion CJ Hunter - husband of Olympic sprinter Marion Jones - failed four drug tests and that more than a dozen other US drug cases were suppressed has sparked a "we-told-you-so" barrage against the United States.

News that world shot put champion CJ Hunter - husband of Olympic sprinter Marion Jones - failed four drug tests and that more than a dozen other US drug cases were suppressed has sparked a "we-told-you-so" barrage against the United States.

"There is a perception in Europe that while the US is very critical and very aggressive toward people who have responsibility for anti-doping, there isn't a lot of evidence there has been a big focus on the problem in the US," said Kevan Gosper, an International Olympic Committee vice president from Australia.

"Some of the most high-profile sports in the US on the Olympic program do not submit themselves to vigorous anti-doping tests. Maybe it needs something like this for the Americans to take a hard look at themselves," he said.

The drug scandals have given International Olympic Committee officials ammunition to express the lingering anti-American resentment related to the Salt Lake City bribery case.

IOC members are still angry at being portrayed as corrupt as a whole. They're also still bitter over the scathing attacks by US lawmakers and White House drug chief Barry McCaffrey, who said the IOC was unfit, unwilling and unable to lead the fight against drugs. While McCaffrey has recently praised the IOC's new anti-doping efforts, all has not been forgiven.

Even China, frequently targeted by US swim coaches as being lax on drugs, has weighed in.

He Huixian, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Olympic Committee, said that, by suppressing Hunter's positive tests, US track officials showed a lack of resolve in fighting doping.

"Only by properly managing your own affairs, with everybody doing a good job of their own anti-doping work, can this big cancer be eradicated," he said. "You must start with yourself."

IOC vice president Dick Pound, a Canadian who never misses a chance to criticize the United States, said the country is in a "state of denial" about the drug problem.

"The United States has been very slow to recognize there is a problem in the US," he said. "This is an opportunity to embrace the fact there is a problem, and show if they want to be a leader in world sport, that they are in fact leaders."

International officials are always quick to point out the lack of comprehensive testing for performance-enhancing drugs in American pro football, basketball, baseball, basketball and hockey.

"Everything is permitted in professional sports," Italian Olympic Committee official Luciano Barra said. "They should not be the first to accuse others."

That perception is recognized by Bob Ctvrtlik, a former US volleyball star who was appointed last year as an IOC member.

"Yes, in American sports we don't have a handle on everything," he said. "But on an amateur and Olympic level, a huge effort is being made."

"It's a shame one guy's mistake has tarnished that," Ctvrtlik added, referring to the Hunter case. "But any time you're the No. 1 medal winner and you dominate certain events, these things will be said.

"We live with the same rules that we are talking about for the rest of the world," he said. "You have to do the right thing before telling others what to do."

The lightning rod for criticism in Sydney has been USA Track and Field, along with its executive director, former miler Craig Masback.

The IAAF has accused the national federation of suppressing 12 to 15 positive drug cases in the last two years.

Several senior IOC officials said they were shocked that Hunter could have tested positive four times for steroids this summer and still remained on the US Olympic team. He withdrew from the team a few days before the games, citing a knee injury.

Hunter's positive tests were disclosed only after a flurry of media reports and speculation.

Masback said USATF is bound by confidentiality rules and cannot disclose positive cases until after due process is completed.

"I regret that we are made the scapegoat for what has been perceived as US misdeeds of all varieties," he said. "We're not responsible for the Salt Lake City scandal or comments by the White House drug czar. I have never said our system is perfect. We have never ever pointed any fingers."

Masback said USATF has tested more athletes for more drugs for a longer period than any other sports organization.

He added: "I have one question for the IAAF and the IOC: What about the fact that 200 of the 211 IAAF members don't test? Where's the outrage about that?"