U.S. drug cover-ups including Mary Joe Fernandez
This is an article from The Globe and Mail (April 16)
Documents reveal U.S. doping cover-up
London — Documents purporting to show that a number of American athletes were allowed to compete in the Olympics after failing drug tests prove long-held suspicions of U.S. drug cover-ups, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency said Wednesday.
Dr. Wade Exum, the former USOC director for drug control from 1991 to 2000, released more than 30,000 pages of documents to Sports Illustrated and the Orange County Register, and he says they show that athletes such as Carl Lewis and Mary Joe Fernandez tested positive but were allowed by the U.S. Olympic Committee to compete anyway.
WADA head Dick Pound said the documents reinforce what some critics believed all along.
“It’s what many people suspected about the U.S. Olympic Committee, that it was being covered up,” he said in a telephone interview from Montreal. “There were lots of rumors around.”
The USOC called Exum’s accusations baseless. In October 2000, the USOC handed over drug-testing responsibilities to a new organization, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Exum claimed more than 100 positive drug tests for U.S. athletes who won 19 Olympic medals from 1988-2000, but that many of them were allowed to compete.
Exum said Lewis was among them, testing positive three times for small amounts of banned stimulants found in cold medications at the 1988 Olympic trials. The USOC first disqualified him, then accepted his appeal on the basis of inadvertent use. Lewis went on to win gold at Seoul in the long jump — and in the 100 meters after Ben Johnson himself was disqualified for using steroids.
Pound dismissed the claims of “inadvertent” drug use.
“At the time this happened, Carl Lewis already had four gold medals from the Olympics,” he said. “You know perfectly well you’ve got to be very careful what you take. The offense is the presence of the substance in your body.”
Pound also criticized USA Track & Field for its record on performance-enhancing drugs. He said he would like to get all the details from the files.
“The more we know the better it is,” Pound said. “The more the world knows and the U.S. public knows what the USOC was doing, the more likely they are to fix the problem.”
Exum had planned to use the documents in his racial discrimination and wrongful termination suit against the USOC, but the case was dismissed in federal court last week because of lack of evidence.
“I never wanted to out athletes,” Exum told Sports Illustrated in its April 21 issue. “I never wanted to name names. Can these names help settle the issue and change the system? We’ll see.”
Lewis, the winner of nine Olympic gold medals and an outspoken critic of doping, could not be reached for comment, but his longtime manager, Joe Douglas, told SI that Lewis had not taken anything to enhance his performance.
The documents show that Joe DeLoach, Lewis’ training partner, tested positive for the same three stimulants as Lewis and was let off for the same reason. He won the 200 meters in Seoul.
Andre Phillips tested positive for pseudoephedrine at the ’88 trials, was cleared on appeal and won the 400-meter hurdles at the games.
Fernandez tested positive for pseudoephedrine before the 1992 Olympic tennis competition, but was not disciplined and won gold and bronze medals. She told SI the positive result was caused by a cold medication.
Pound pointed out letters purportedly written by then-USOC executive director Baaron Pittenger, advising Lewis, DeLoach and Phillips they had tested positive but were being cleared to compete in Seoul.
“It’s got to be pretty embarrassing to the USOC to have their secretary general writing in the letter where he advises an athlete of a positive A sample, ‘I have to send you this, but we already decided this was inadvertent.”’ Pound said. “That whole process turned into a joke.”
Arne Ljungqvist, chairman of the medical commissions of the IOC and the International Association of Athletics Federations, said the documents “fit a pattern” of failure to report on positive drug cases.
“The USATF should have reported to the IAAF,” he said. “That’s what we asked them to do repeatedly. We were aware they didn’t do it. The rules were changed in ’89 to make that clear.”