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Tests won't risk 'Dream Teams'

NEW YORK — NHL and NBA officials said Wednesday they were not worried that U.S. Olympic Committee initiatives on doping would pose a threat to the "Dream Teams" that have enlivened Olympic competition.

The USOC executive committee passed a resolution last Friday saying pro athletes who want to be in the Olympics would have to declare up to a year before the Games and could be included in a pool of players eligible for random drug testing, the New York Times reported in Wednesday's edition.

The Times quoted officials of the North American professional leagues as saying they were taken by surprise by the USOC resolution and were not sure of the potential consequences.

Reached by Reuters later on Wednesday, league officials were reluctant to discuss any specifics of the resolution but were putting a different spin on the subject.

"I did have a discussion with (USOC president) Scott Blackmun and we're going to talk further about what their marching orders mean as far as participation of NHL athletes in the Olympics," said Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal counsel.

"I'm confident we'll be able to work out a protocol and procedure that would be fine for us."

NBA commissioner David Stern said through a league spokeswoman: "We have always tested our Olympic athletes far in advance of the competition. This presents absolutely no problem for us."

This was a marked departure from the initial reactions to the resolution, which could meet with disapproval within the players unions of the professional leagues and which could pose logistical problems surrounding the submission of a candidates' list so far in advance.

"They've broadsided everyone," the Times quoted an NBA official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They've thrown down the gauntlet without giving anyone any details. It's hard to tell if they are serious or if this is just a public relations ploy."

Daly was quoted as saying: "As far as I know, Scott Blackmun has never talked to (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman."

"I don't know where this is coming from."

Doping has been a sensitive subject for the USOC, which was embarrassed during the Summer Games in Sydney over the case of shot putter C.J. Hunter, husband of track star Marion Jones.

Hunter tested positive for excessive amounts of the steroid nandrolone on four occasions preceding the Sydney Games, where his positive tests were made public, but denied knowingly taking banned substances.

Daly said late on Wednesday that Blackmun had eased his mind about the USOC resolution.

"I think my discussion with Scott cleared up my concerns," Daly said. "We have a meeting scheduled in Salt Lake City on Wednesday" with various officials to try and "map out procedure and protocol. I hope we are going to get that accomplished."