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Saturday, January 10, 1998 Published at 15:16 GMT


Inquiry dives into drug abuse in swimming
image: [ Fina hopes a new investigative panel will solve the issue of drug testing ]
Fina hopes a new investigative panel will solve the issue of drug testing

China is not alone in feeling the heat over drugs at the world swimming championships. The sport's governing body, Fina, is also under the microscope over its handling of drug testing and enforcement.

A growing chorus of criticism of Fina's performance on the issue has followed the discovery of growth hormones hidden in the baggage of a Chinese swimmer en route to the eighth world titles in Perth, Australia.

In response to the incident, Fina has announced that it will establish a task force made up of scientific and medical experts from around the world to investigate and make recommendations for curbing drug abuse.

[ image: Recalled Chinese swimmer, Yuan Yuan, makes her way home]
Recalled Chinese swimmer, Yuan Yuan, makes her way home
The task force is to report back to the organisation within six months.

China recalled the swimmer and her coach. Ms Yuan faces a four-year ban from professional swimming.

Criticism is nothing new for Fina, an organisation formed in 1908 and based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In the years since China burst on to the world scene, culminating in winning 12 of 16 women's events at the 1994 Rome world titles, calls have been made for more to be done to curb the spread of performance-enhancing substances.

Australia's head coach Don Talbot and US swimming officials have been among the most vocal critics.

Olympic champion, Mark Spitz, and former Australian champion, Murray Rose, said procedures needed to be tightened.

"Fina should basically get their act together and test for all known drugs," Mr Spitz said.

Mr Spitz said the drug testers needed the power to enforce the rules and also an organised programme of testing rather than the current haphazard way Fina uses currently.

Mr Rose said Fina lacked clear leadership over the issue.

That view was echoed by US men's head coach, Jon Urbanchek, who labelled the organisation "incompetent".

"Atlanta [Olympics were] clean because of the two years of persistent pushing against drugs from Rome to Atlanta. The entire world combined to put pressure on China and it worked," he said.

Only hours before the Chinese drug find, the Fina president, Mustapha Larfaoui, said his organisation was at the forefront of the fight against illegal substances and criticism was unwarranted.

But Australian coach, Don Talbot, said Fina now faced a critical time.

"I think it [the discovery] is a positive in that we are really going to find out if Fina is paying lip service to what they say they are doing or if they are really seriously thinking of doing something about the sport to clean it up," he said.

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