Thu, Oct 23, 2003 - Page 20 News List

IAAF now in the hunt for users of `designer steroid'


Track and field's governing body will retest all drug samples from the recent World Championships to check whether any athletes were using a previously undetectable designer steroid.

The International Association of Athletics Federations said Tuesday it would reopen the some 400 samples taken during the Aug. 23-31 championships in Saint-Denis, France, to search for tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG.

The drug is at the heart of a major doping scandal in the US, where several track and field athletes tested positive for the substance at the US national championships last summer.

The IAAF, which said Monday it was considering the legal implications, decided to proceed with the retesting following a meeting in Paris between IAAF president Lamine Diack and IAAF anti-doping chief Arne Ljungqvist.

"The emergence of this new steroid is a matter of great concern and we are taking all steps that we can to investigate how widespread its use has been," Diack said in a statement. "The IAAF is committed to the principle of retesting all the Paris samples as part of this investigative process.

"If athletes have deliberately set out to cheat the public at our World Championships, then they must be exposed and dealt with in the strongest possible way."

Any positive findings would lead to retroactive disqualifications, including stripping of any medals, and two-year bans.

"We want a clean sport," IAAF general secretary Istvan Gyulai told The Associated Press on Monday.

"This is a great opportunity. We don't want to leave potential cheaters untouched."

Under the IAAF's drug-testing agreement with French authorities for the World Championships, all samples taken in France must be tested in France.

At the moment, however, only the UCLA doping control laboratory in Los Angeles has the ability to test for THG.

IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said the IAAF would contact French officials and the UCLA lab to decide how to proceed. He suggested the samples could be sent to Los Angeles for analysis or the UCLA lab could provide the testing method to the French.

"We're under no time pressure," Davies said. "We'll do it the right way."

In potentially the biggest drug bust in sports history, the US Anti-Doping Agency announced last Thursday that several athletes tested positive for THG at the US track championships in late June at Stanford.

USADA chief executive officer Terry Madden called it a widespread conspiracy involving chemists, athletes and coaches.

UCLA's lab developed a test for THG after an anonymous coach turned in a used syringe containing the substance.

USADA retested 350 samples from the US championships, as well as 100 samples from random out-of-competition tests.

The athletes who tested positive for THG haven't been identified pending analysis of their B samples. Some non-American athletes are also reportedly involved.

In a related development, up to 40 Olympic and pro athletes have been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury investigating a California company identified by USADA as being the source of the steroid.

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