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Drug Testing News

Carl Lewis's positive drug test covered up


By Jacquelin Magnay
April 18 2003

Olympic legend Carl Lewis is among more than 100 American athletes involved in a cover-up of drug use, documents reveal.

Lewis and two of his training partners all took the same three types of banned stimulants and were caught at the 1988 US Olympic trials, according to the documents released by a disgruntled former senior US anti-doping official, Dr Wade Exum.

But on appeal to their national Olympic committee, all were cleared of inadvertent doping. Two months later, at the Seoul Olympics, Lewis finished second in the 100 metres sprint. But when Canadian Ben Johnson failed his Olympic drug test, Lewis was awarded the 100m gold.

Lewis also won the Olympic long jump - as part of his career tally of nine Olympic gold medals - and his training partner, Joe De Loach, won the 200m in Seoul.

Lewis's lawyer, Martin Singer, has responded to the revelations by saying his client had taken only a herbal remedy.

"Carl did nothing wrong," Mr Singer told The Orange County Register. "There was never intent."

The latest documents show Lewis tested positive for the banned stimulants found in cold medications: pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine.

The World Anti-Doping Agency's chairman, Dick Pound, dismissed the "no intent" defence. Mr Pound has seen copies of the documents and said that in some instances there was almost "automatic forgiveness" by the US officials.

Letters written by a US Olympic Committee executive, Baaron Pittenger, were sent advising some athletes of their positive drug-test results - and at the same time told them they were being cleared.

"It's got to be pretty embarrassing to the USOC," said Mr Pound, "to have their secretary-general writing in the letter, where he advises an athlete of a positive A sample, 'I have to send you this, but we already decided this was inadvertent.' That whole process turned into a joke."

Dr Exum, the former USOC
director for drug control from 1991 to 2000, released more than 30,000 pages of documents to Sports Illustrated. They confirm widespread suspicion of the USOC drug-testing system before it was moved to an independent body, the US Anti Doping Agency, after the Sydney Olympics.

The Herald reported last year that a US athlete tested positive to steroids in 1999 but was allowed to compete - and win an Olympic gold medal - in the 2000 Sydney Games. US officials still refuse to divulge the name of the athlete, or those of 13 other athletes who had failed drug tests around the same time, citing privacy laws.

In the Seoul 100m, Britain's Linford Christie was elevated from third to second after Johnson was disqualified. In later years, Christie was banned for using steroids.

The International Olympic Committee's medical commission chairman, Arne Ljungqvist, said the Exum documents "fit a pattern" of failure to report on positive drug cases. But the USOC called Dr Exum's accusations "baseless".

Dr Exum said there were more than 100 positive tests for US athletes who won 19 Olympic medals between 1988 and 2000, but many were allowed to keep competing.