Link to USAToday article
Designer drug test flags U.S. track stars
By Dick Patrick, USA TODAY
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency appears to have ambushed drug users in what could be a major steroid bust of several American track and field athletes.
"I know of no other drug bust (with steroids) that is larger than this involving the number of athletes we have involved," said Terry Madden, the CEO of USADA, which was formed three years ago to conduct drug testing in U.S. Olympic sports. "I'm unaware of anything overseas, either."
According to Madden, U.S. athletes have tested positive for a designer steroid on their "A," or preliminary urine samples in tests conducted at the USA Track & Field Championships in late June at Stanford and subsequent out-of-competition tests. After confirmation samples are analyzed and appeals held, names could be announced by mid-December, Madden said.
Promising careers of athletes could be derailed and the 2004 U.S. Olympic team could be severely weakened because of resulting two-year bans.
Foreign athletes also are involved, the USADA said. Though other sports have been tested recently, only track athletes have been announced positive so far. The cases appear tied to a Justice Department investigation of Victor Conte and his company, BALCO Laboratories Inc., located in Burlingame, Calif., south of San Francisco and raided last month by federal authorities, including the IRS.
BALCO has associations with many NFL and MLB players, including baseball star Barry Bonds. Track athletes with ties to the company include Marion Jones, who missed this season because of childbirth; Tim Montgomery, the world recordholder in the 100 meters; sprinter Kelli White, subject to losing two gold medals at the world championships for testing positive for a stimulant; sprinters Chryste Gaines of the USA and Dwain Chambers of Britain; Kevin Toth, a world-class shot putter; and Regina Jacobs, world indoor champ in the 1,500.
USADA said it received information from an anonymous informant claiming to be a high-profile track coach and naming Conte as the source of the steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG). Conte has denied steroid involvement.
The informant overnighted a syringe of the substance in early June to USADA, which had it analyzed in its UCLA lab by Don Catlin. He found the material similar to steroids on the banned list but sufficiently altered to avoid detection by normal tests.
USADA then retested 350 urine samples from the USA Track & Field Championships, resulting in the recent "A" positives.
"The athletes who did take part in this were very sure of being undetectable," Madden said. "This would be a very sophisticated designer steroid created by very sophisticated chemists."
The case marks the third time, beginning with the 2002 Winter Olympics, that Catlin has surprised drug users with unannounced advances in testing.
"We believe we're not only catching up, but we believe we have information where (drug users) are going in the future," Madden said.
USADA said in addition to the steroid positives, they have discovered more American athletes with "A" positives for using modafinil, the stimulant White tested positive for in August in Paris. After getting information on the drug, USADA reanalyzed data from tests from the USA Track & Field Championships.
"This has got to be another bloody nose for Craig Masback," said World Anti-Doping Agency head Dick Pound of the CEO for USA Track & Field. "He's got a sport in real trouble."
Masback himself had no comment but USATF responded in a statement that it applauds USADA's efforts to find cheaters.
USADA has informed the international track federation (IAAF) about THG.
The IAAF declined comment when asked if it tested for THG at the worlds or planned retests for the drug.