Winter Olympics: Asthma drugs confusion

GAMES officials were busy yesterday playing down stories of drug abuse by a legion of asthmatics in Lillehammer. 'We must not talk about doping. No, no, no,' Patrick Schabasch, the International Olympic Committee's medical director, said.

The stories had started on Tuesday night when Prince Alexandre de Merode, chairman of the IOC medical commission was interviewed on CBS. The normal incidence of asthma would be about eight to 10 per cent, and CBS quoted De Merode as saying: 'I'm a little bit suspicious when slowly I can see in Winter Games, for example, nearly 60 per cent of the athletes begin to be asthmatic, and that is not normal. You know it's something wrong.'

The backtracking followed soon after. Schabasch asked for the story to be ignored, Andrew Napier, the IOC's public relations director, denied doctors were prescribing athletes asthma drugs and De Merode changed his mind by furnishing figures that 87 of the 1,956 athletes in Lillehammer were registered asthmatics.