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ANTI-DRUG PROGRAMS NEED IMPROVING, USOC SAYS

Anti-doping programs in the United States have failed, and the nation's athletes face unfair competition from drug-using competitors abroad, top officials of the U.S. Olympic Committee said Saturday.

In a panel discussion at its board of directors' meeting, the USOC's medical leaders called for greater emphasis on random drug tests conducted at very short notice away from competition.While anti-drug programs have proliferated in the last seven years, they said, drug abusers have become increasingly sophisticated.

Instead of needles to inject muscle-building steroids, top-notch dopers just smooth on steroid-laced skin cream, and then flush their bodies of all traces of illicit drugs within an hour when a test notice arrives, according to Dr. Don Catlin, director of the drug lab at UCLA and an internationally recognized authority on doping.

"There is movement (against doping), but the pace of the movement is not keeping up with the pace of what is current in doping," he said.

Catlin and other officials also said that athletes and officials throughout Olympic sports, both in the United States and other countries, must join together to regain the anti-drug momentum that crested after Ben Johnson tested positive for steroids at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. The U.S. must take a leadership role in ending drug use in sports, they added.