Olympic Games: Aussies invest to fight drugs

OLYMPIC organisers in Sydney will receive about pounds 1.2m from the Australian government to fight drugs at the 2000 Games.

The majority of the funds will be used to strengthen the Australian sports drug testing laboratory's ability to detect the use of banned substances at the Olympics, the Australian sports minister, Andrew Thomson, announced yesterday. The Australian Sports Drug Agency will receive about pounds 315,000 in 1998-99 for additional drug testing and education.

"Later this year, I will announce further details of a comprehensive anti-doping strategy for a drug-free Sydney Games," Thomson said.

A cornerstone of that strategy will be the Olympic Games drug research programme to improve the laboratory's ability to detect substances banned by the International Olympic Committee. The IOC is hoping to have adequate procedures in place by the Games to test for substances, which can only be detected by blood testing at present.

The grant, over a three-year period, was part of a pounds 13m provisional allocation to Olympic organisers made in yesterday's federal budget. Thomson said the funding would depend on the ability of the national and New South Wales state government. The governments have been embroiled in a deepening rift over funding, with Thomson refusing to deal with the state Olympics minister, Michael Knight.

The Government announced it would make the provisional allocation between 1998-1999 and 2000-2001 to enable the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games to purchase services for the Games. So far the national government has committed or spent pounds 155m on the Games. According to the budget, it would spend a further pounds 2.4m on the staging of the actual games.

The government also announced a plan to raise a further pounds 30m over four years to meet the costs of the games.