IOC extends 'no needle' ban to all sports in 2012

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The International Olympic Committee will enforce a "no needle" policy for the 2012 London Games that bars competitors from possessing syringes and other medical equipment that could be used for doping.

The IOC's medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist said that needles will be prohibited from living areas, locker rooms and training and competition sites without medical clearance.

"We won't accept medical equipment like syringes and needles in the field of play or [in a] non-medical environment," said Ljungqvist. "It gives a very bad image and a bad message and can relate to misuse of drugs and doping."

The international cycling, rowing and gymnastics federations already have no-needle policies.

The IOC will send the new rules to all 205 national Olympic committees, which must ensure their teams comply. Athletes and team doctors will have to apply to the Games' chief medical officer to seek authorisation for use of needles for medical injections.

"They should only be used in proper medical circumstances," Ljungqvist said.

In addition to the potential for doping, disposed needles also pose a health risk to house cleaners and other hotel staff, he said. "If you have needles in waste- paper baskets, that's not safe," he said. "They are not supposed to be there."

At past Olympics and world championships, cleaners have found needles and syringes in athletes' villages and other living quarters.

"This is too frequent," Ljungqvist said. "It's too common, too serious."

The UCI, cycling's governing body, instituted a "no needle" policy in May that limits when riders can receive injections and prohibits injections of recovery-boosting vitamins, sugars, enzymes and amino acids. The UCI said its research has suggested that even legitimate use of needles may often put riders on a slippery slope toward doping.

Ljungqvist said anti-doping sanctions for London still had to be finalised but that some 5,000 drug tests would be conducted, including surprise, out-of-competition urine and blood checks.