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Tuesday, February 2, 1999 Published at 00:12 GMT


Doctor makes drugs cover-up claim

An anti-doping poster gets the message across in Lausanne

The International Olympic Committee is braced for fresh criticism when the World Conference on Doping opens in Switzerland on Tuesday.

Dr Hans Howald has accused the IOC of failing to take decisive action to deal with the problem.

He alleges that almost a dozen cases of doping were hushed up at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics on the orders of President Juan Antonio Samaranch.

But IOC Medical Commission Chief Prince Alexandre de Merode is set to propose that athletes testing positive are banned from high-profile competitions, rather than for a specified time period.

"This is a very important conference for the future of sport," said David Sparkes, Chief Executive of Britain's Amateur Swimming Association.

"It's important now that they start listening to the athletes as much as they listen to their lawyers. The athletes are very clear - they want a tough position taken on drugs."

Samaranch under fire

The IOC's reputation has been tarnished by the ongoing Salt Lake City scandal.

Nine officials were named as having received money and gifts during the bidding process which resulted in the US city being awarded the 2002 Winter Olympics.

There are further allegations concerning Sydney's successful bid for the 2000 summer Games.

But suggestions of a cover up over positive drug tests in Los Angeles will further damage the IOC's reputation.

Dr Howald, a former member of the IOC Medical Commission, was quoted in the Swiss newspaper Info Dimanche as saying: "Samaranch decided that the dozen cases of drug taking already revealed was enough to bolster the image of the IOC being touch on drug taking and he did not want any more."

"This conference on drug taking will come up with no spectacular decision.

"Once again there will be lots of good intentions and the IOC will again have given the impression to the public at large that they have done something."

New sanctions

[ image: Prince Alexandre de Merode: Seeking a compromise]
Prince Alexandre de Merode: Seeking a compromise
The International Amateur Athletics Federation supports a two-year ban for competitors who fail drug tests.

But its view is not supported by football's governing body, Fifa, or the International Tennis Federation.

The IOC medical chief hopes his plan to introduce bans for specified events will win the backing of organisations across the whole range of sports.

"We are going to propose a number of sanctions, amongst which will be the suggestion that an athlete who tests positive will not be able to take part in the major events where there is the most money and fame for them," said de Merode.

His proposal would, for example, see a tennis player who tests positive banned from the Grand Slam events.

But he added: "The IOC must be the judge of world sport. It will be a major step forward if we can unite everyone's efforts."

More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the conference, including government ministers.

Former Olympic 1,500m champion Sebastian Coe said: "If sport became each to his own and you do what you can to win, then that's the morality of the knacker's yard.

"We may all as well go away and sit at our screens playing fantasy chemists."

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