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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 22:14 GMT

Drugs crackdown at Olympics

Olympic Chiefs have set out their stall on the eve of the Winter Games by taking a tough stance on drug abuse.

Hours before the opening ceremony in Salt Lake City, a list of 27 athletes who have tested positive for drugs was made public.

The out-of-competition tests were carried out on 3,639 athletes from all sports from more than 75 countries over the past 10 months.

Positive sanctions were taken against only 16 athletes.

The World Anti-Doping Agency, which carried out the tests, highlighted the fact that less than 1% of the tests were positive.

Drugs crackdown
3,639 tests
1,621 winter athletes 27 positive results
16 sanctioned
One official warning
Six cleared on medical grounds
Four results still under analysis

"As the results show, the fact is the opposite of the myth that all athletes cheat," Wada chairman Dick Pound said.

"We hope to have the cleanest Olympics ever and the message to athletes is 'you can run, but you can't hide'.

"Any athlete with an IQ above room temperature should now realise they can be tested anywhere and at any time, in and out of competition.

"We don't just want Olympic winners, we want clean, Olympic heroes, and a level playing field for all."

Most of the 27 athletes from 18 countreis who failed drug tests had already been announced.

Of the seven that were scheduled to take part in Salt Lake, only one - Russian skier Natalia Baranova-Masolkina - turned up and she was refused accreditation.

Wada, an international agency with no association to any national sports bodies, is the International Olympic Committee's primary weapon in the global fight against drug cheats.

IOC President Jacques Rogge has made the fight a top priority and is confident the actions will prevent any further positive results.

"The message to the athletes is very clear. We want to protect the clean athletes and we want to kick out the cheats," said Dr Rogge, who is presiding over his first Olympics.

Wada was critical of the case of the Latvian bobsledder Sandis Prusis who will compete despite testing positive.

The IOC tried to prevent Prusis from competing after the International Bobsleigh Federation reduced his two-year suspension for taking steorids to three months.

Prusis appealed to the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) which ruled that the IOC could not overrule an international federation's decision, thus allowing him to take part in the 2002 Games.

"That loophole will be closed in November," Dr Rogge said.

Swedish ice hockey player Mattias Ohlund escaped with an official warning and will compete at the Games.

Wada's role in Salt Lake will be that of an independent observer of testing procedures, which will then fall under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee.

The agency will monitor the testing procedures and will sit in on discussions on sanctions for cheating athletes.

They will also promote a new programme - The Athlete's Passport - in which athletes will agree to undergo tests anywhere, at anytime and allow them to be made public.

The eventual goal is to create a single anti-doping code that will be embraced by the IOC and all Olympic countries ahead of the Athens Games in 2004.

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