Sat, Oct 25, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Athens says Olympics will be drug free

REUTERS , ATHENS

Organizers for next year's Athens Olympics (ATHOC) refused on Thursday to discuss the fallout of a major doping crisis that has threatened to leave next year's games shorn of many top athletes.

Four, yet unnamed, US athletes and Britain's European champion sprinter Dwain Chambers, were already confirmed to have given positive A sample urine tests for the previously unknown steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG).

US, British and German authorities have demanded retesting thousands of samples dating months back in an effort to identify the extent of the performance-enhancing drug's use.

"The Athens Games will be a clean games," an ATHOC official said.

But when asked to comment on the possible impact of potential bans of several top athletes who may be forbidden to take part in next year's Olympics because of the use of the drug, the official said it was too early.

"Discussing this is premature. Athens 2004 has repeatedly said that it is in full understanding with the International Olympic Committee [IOC] and the World Anti-Doping Agency [WADA], the official said.

The government's top Olympics official told reporters on Thursday that the games should be free from any form of drugs -- and that was its priority.

"It's an absolute need for the Olympic Games to get rid of the doping phenomenon," Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, in charge of the games, told reporters after meeting IOC chief inspector Denis Oswald.

"Greece, as an active WADA member has said there's a need for the creation of a new international anti-doping code within UNESCO.

"We are a country with a strict national law and we want all federations to accept the WADA anti-doping code adopted in Copenhagen," Venizelos said.

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