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Lawsuit slams drug tests by USOC

SHARE Lawsuit slams drug tests by USOC

DENVER — American athletes have won medals in the Olympics after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs in Olympic qualification trials, a former senior official of the U.S. Olympic Committee said in a lawsuit against the committee filed Monday in federal court here.

The official, Dr. Wade Exum, who served nine years as director of the committee's Drug Control Administration, charged that the Olympic committee has essentially ignored test results that would otherwise have led to sanctions against athletes. This was a strategy, he asserts, that encourages athletes to use illegal drugs to improve their performances.

"The USOC has thrown roadblocks in the path of anti-doping enforcement," Exum says in a 31-page complaint that seeks compensation for what he describes as wrongful termination, in part, because he is black. "In recent years absolutely no sanction has been imposed on roughly half of all the American athletes who have tested positive for prohibited substances."

Exum, who was dismissed last June 5, further claimed that he uncovered "scores" of athletes who tested positive for testosterone, an illegal substance that is especially popular among track and field athletes, but never became aware of any sanction by the Olympic committee. He also said that athletes continue to use "synthetic testosterone" without fear of punishment.

Norm Blake, the chief executive of the Olympic Committee, said in a statement that upon quick review of the lawsuit he found the complaint to be "without merit," adding that committee lawyers would offer a proper response in time.

Blake also criticized Exum for filing the lawsuit less than two months before the opening of the Olympics in Sydney, Australia, a time frame that would result in "unwarranted allegations," tarnishing the reputation of athletes and their supporters.

Neither Exum, 51, a physician and a psychiatrist who was hired by the Olympic committee in 1991, nor his lawyer was available for comment. The lawyer, John W. McKendree, was out of town, and Exum said in a statement that he would have nothing to say publicly about the lawsuit before a news conference, scheduled for Friday. Last month, Exum made similar accusations in a letter made public by his lawyer.

In his lawsuit, Exum declined to mention any athletes by name or sport. But his allegations paint a particularly harsh picture of a drug-enforcement system designed to do anything but enforce regulations. His charges suggest American athletes who use illegal substances have nothing to fear from Olympic authorities and that anytime he tried to intercede to improve the system, he was undercut by superiors who brushed aside his efforts.

He also repeated a familiar concern raised by other critics of the United States drug-fighting efforts over the years that by paying two laboratories to analyze urine samples for possible drug use, the Olympic committee engages in a conflict of interests that removes any incentive for lab directors to develop better tests or technologies that might discourage drug use.

The overall result, he claimed, has led to "arbitrary and capricious results with improperly lenient treatment for certain athletes presumed positive for performance-enhancing drugs and with most athletes receiving such light punishments, or no punishments, as to encourage the use of prohibited performance enhancing drugs or doping methods."

As a further consequence of the Olympic committee's problems fighting illegal drugs, he said, his efforts have "lost international credibility" and his own reputation has suffered.

In addition to allegations about drug-testing procedures, Exum charged that many of his problems working for the Olympic committee reflected his race, which he claimed was the sole reason he was denied promotion to Chief Medical Officer. Four times, he said, control over the budget for his activities was controlled by white administrators, one of whom, James Page, had been banned for life from the national and international governing bodies of skiing for his role in an athlete's drug use.

Exum said all four of his white superiors were variously promoted over him or given authority over the committee's Sports Medicine and Drug Control functions despite the fact none of them had a medical degree or expertise in drug-fighting strategies. Exum said that he, on the other hand, was often criticized for not being "a team player," which led him to conclude that his "race and color" cost him any opportunity to advance.

The lawsuit makes eight charges against the Olympic committee, including misrepresentation, wrongful termination and racial discrimination.