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Karl delays on Oly pact

Drug testing and lack of pay are among concerns

MIAMI — Despite displeasure with some of what accepting an invitation to play for USA Basketball's 2004 Summer Olympics men's qualifying team entails, Jazz star Karl Malone still intends to RSVP in the affirmative.

Malone has yet to return a signed contract to the national federation, but — even amid reports he is unhappy with certain stipulations — he says he eventually will sign to join the team that hopes to make it to Athens, Greece, for the '04 Olympic Games.

"I'm just want to make sure of what I'm signing," said Malone, a member of the gold medal-winning United States "Dream Teams" at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain, and the '96 Games in Atlanta.

"It's like somebody coming down and (putting) a stack of checks in front of you — you just sign your name and pass them on, then at the end of the (day), you be like 'Dang, I didn't sign that. Why'd I sign that?'

"That's why I haven't sent it back yet. It's not that I'm wavering on if I want to play or not. It's that I want to make sure I understand everything about the contract."

Malone made national waves late last week, telling ESPN.com he agrees with already appointed team member Ray Allen that it seems unfair players are restricted from profiting from sponsorships while USA Basketball does.

"If a man off the street just looks at that contract, they will say, 'Damn,' " Malone said. "You give them access to your whole life, and they are not giving you access to nothing but the chance to play on the team."

Original '92 Dream Teamers — including Malone, Jazz teammate John Stockton, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird — reportedly split more than $1 million among them. Members of the '96 team also supposedly earned money, though players from the 2000 Sydney, Australia, team did not.

"If we didn't get paid, I would still do it," Seattle SuperSonics guard Allen told the Tacoma (Wash.) News-Tribune last week. "But I know they make money off licensing jersey-wise, and I think . . . they should stipend something, because the NBA is making money, USA Basketball is making money."

Malone concurs.

"From hotels, to soft drinks to Gatorade to basketball equipment. You are basically saying, 'OK, we don't have an endorsement deal, you can have (the money),' " he told the web site. "I don't know if that is fair."

Malone — who goes into the Jazz's game at Miami tonight needing eight boards to pass Nate Thurmond for No. 7 on the NBA's all-time rebounds list — also has issues with random drug-testing demands put on all national-team players.

Out-of-competition tests include screening for anabolic agents, diuretics, human growth hormones, blood doping and genetic doping; tests during competition screen for drugs including ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and narcotics.

"Once I sign on that dotted line, I tell them, 'I'm yours for two years no matter what,' " Malone told ESPN.com. "There is a statement in the antidrug policy, that in the summer, everywhere I go, I have to call them and tell them where I'm at."

United States Anti-Doping Agency spokesman Rich Wanninger told the Associated Press that, most of the time, "We're going to work with their schedules, and we're not going to knock on doors at 4 a.m.

"The possibility is there," Wanninger added, "but it probably won't happen."

Still, Malone has reservations.

"Wherever I'm at, they can show up and say, here (urinate) in this cup," he said in the ESPN.com story. "I can be logging in Arkansas, they show up and find me, I got to (urinate) in a cup, no questions asked. Right then. That's pretty strong. My wife sometimes don't even know where I'm at."

None of that, though, will prevent Malone from committing. He merely wants to make the issues known, for starters.

"If there's something you don't like, we have the right to say, 'Hey, what about this, what about that?' " the NBA's No. 2 all-time scorer said after Utah's loss in Dallas on Saturday night.

"(That doesn't mean) 'Because you don't change it, I'm not gonna play.' . . . There (just are) some things I'd like to bring to their attention."

Malone has said all along he is honored to have a chance to play in a third Olympics. But he wants to be prudent before formalizing his commitment.

"It's not that I'm changing my mind," he said Saturday. "It's just that I want to make sure what the (heck) I'm signing.

"Just because you send me a contract," Malone added, "I'm not gonna sign it today and send it back tomorrow."

By agreeing to play in the Americas zone qualifying tournament at Puerto Rico in late August — the United States must finish in the top three to advance to Greece — Malone will sacrifice time he might otherwise spend on his ranch in Arkansas, where he owns a logging operation.

"How many people do you know," he said, "that sign things (and) look back on it and wish they (hadn't)?

"Back home, I have guys that sign over mineral rights, and then, all of a sudden, (they say) 'Dang, why did I sign that?' You've got to know what you're signing."


E-MAIL: tbuckley@desnews.com