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Olympic athletes fail test

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High levels of prohibited performance-enhancing drugs have been found in 24 Olympic athletes tested for the Winter Games in Salt Lake City, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said Friday.

Richard Pound, chairman of the independent watchdog agency, said the elevated test results, commonly known as "lab positives," had not yet been verified as being officially positive. But he said he expected a number of athletes would be expelled before the Games begin on Feb. 8.

One of those with a high test result included a non-Canadian National Hockey League player, he added. Salt Lake City is the second Winter Games in which professional hockey players are allowed to compete.

The names of athletes with elevated levels of prohibited substances will not be released until the final test results are in, Pound said.

The substances found include steroids, which enhance strength and endurance and which speed up healing from injuries, plasma expanders, which enrich blood with oxygen, and various agents used to mask drugs, Pound said.

Despite the 24 high test results, Pound said he expects the vast majority of athletes at the Games will be drug free.

"The number of even laboratory positive results is less than 1 percent of the total tests that have been done," Pound told reporters.

"So 99 percent of the kids out there are competing fairly and it's our job to protect them against the 1 percent that might be inclined to cheat."

Pound outlined what he said was tighter doping control and testing heading into the Games, aimed at making them the most drug-free in Olympic history.

Some 3,500 drug tests will have been completed in the 12 months before the Games begin, including 900 that have yet to be done, according to WADA.

During the Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has exclusive authority for all drug testing of athletes.