INSIDE LINES: Aussies in a new dope opera

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There's now less than a year to go to the 2000 Olympics and they seem to be getting increasingly uptight Down Under. Sydney has already suffered its share of sleaze and scandal and now the top brass have started an international drugs war over who is to control dope testing during the Games. Apparently Washington's most powerful anti-drugs campaigner will be banned from the Sydney Games' venues if the Australian Olympic Committee president, John Coates, gets his way. Barry McCaffrey, a US four-star general, arrives today to attend an international drugs in sport conference and Coates believes he will use the talks to attack a newly created anti-doping agency set up by the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne. McCaffrey, who is the US government's director of National Drug Control, and Coates have had a long-standing difference of opinion over who should control drug testing in sport. Coates says he is concerned that McCaffrey would continue lobbying the US Congress to strip the IOC of revenue from television rights to the Games if he does not get his way. The Australian newspaper claims Coates has told Olympic administrators to refuse him access to Sydney Olympic Park for press conferences and tours. "As far as I'm concerned McCaffrey may be a four-star general but he does not even rate one star in the drugs-in-sports arena," Coates is reported to have said in a letter to the New South Wales premier, Bob Carr, in that usual understated Aussie way. Meanwhile, there is further embarrassment for the Olympic movement with news from Italy yesterday that one of that country's sporting idols,the cross country skiing champion, Manuela di Centa, who is also a popular TV chat show host, has been questioned by police in Florence as part of a probe into the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Much mamma-mia-ing all round, as Ms Di Centa is among the members of the Reform Commission set up by the IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, to tidy up the image of the movement following the Salt Lake City shenanigans.

Dave Hadfield in Sydney, page 8

Olympics drugs control row, Main Section, page 25

Hoey sees a new ice age

The Minister for Sport, Kate Hoey, was conspicuous by her absence from the VIP box at Hampden yesterday. Instead of watching the footy she kept a promise to attend the British Figure Skating Championships in Belfast, reminding us, as she said recently in these pages, that she is determined to be the minister of all sports, and not just football. She may have been in on the start of something big, for the event witnessed the breakthrough of a new ice dance couple who might just be long hoped-for successors to Torvill and Dean. Julie Keeble and Lucasz Zaleweski, who have been together for only 18 months, swirled and twirled to victory in a captivating style reminiscent of the old Bolero icons. It was also an opportunity for Hoey to renew her acquaintance with a heroine of her own, former athlete Mary Peters. It is hard to believe that our greatest-ever female Olympian turned 60 this year, an old age pensioner now but still with one of the youngest hearts in sport. She spent yesterday afternoon at the rinkside at the Dundonald Ice Bowl bending Hoey's ear about how to get their native Belfast back on the sporting map. The skating is a start but, as deputy chairman of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, she wants to see more sports shedding their inhibitions about holding their championships in a city that used to be as depressing as the old East Berlin but is now as cheerfully accommodating as Peters herself. It is 27 years since Peters won pentathlon gold in the Munich Olympics and the former president of the now defunct British Athletics Federation has now severed her connection with athletics administration, including her role on the women's committee of the IAAF. "It's time to give the youngsters a chance," she says, welcome but somewhat unfamiliar sentiments from senior sports figures these days.

New kids on the ice block, page 19

Hungary for the top job

Who follows Primo Nebiolo? Sports minister Hoey and officials of UK Athletics were to have met the late IAAF president in Monaco next week to discuss London's bid for the World Athletics Championships in 2003 or 2005. Instead they will present their case to Lamine Diak, a lawyer who is a former speaker of the Sengalese parliament and the man who will succeed the dictatorial Italian at least temporarily. But the man they should be courting is Istvan Gulyai, the ex-Hungarian TV sports journalist who is the IAAF's general secretary and is tipped to emerge as the key figure in the future of an organisation that has more members than any other sports body, and even the United Nations. Unlike Nebiolo, the popular Gulyai is something of an Angophile but, also unlike Nebiolo, he is not a multi-millionaire and would need to follow the Sepp Blatter route and become a paid president when the IAAF convenes to find a permanent successor to Nebiolo.

Questions but no answers

The seven written questions put to Chris Smith, Secretary of State of Culture, Media and Sport on Tuesday about the New Wembley controversy by his opposite number Peter Ainsworth remained strangely unanswered at close of parliamentary play on Friday evening. "Something fishy here," sniffs a Tory Central Office spokesman. "It seems they are playing for time." No doubt Smith first wants to see what is in the independent report ordered by his own department, which could determine whether Wembley as planned has a future or not. Wembley may be prepared to answer a few questions themselves tomorrow having called a press conference to mark their planning application to Brent Council, even though the new report will not be ready for a week or so.

Brooking's Wembley war, page 9