USOC Denies Drug Claim

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Denver, CO, June 22 (AP by Aaron J. Lopez)--In an athletic world that cringes at the slightest whisper of doping, the claim that 50 percent of all American athletes who tested positive for banned substances in recent years went unpunished commands immediate attention.

The former drug chief for the U.S. Olympic Committee plans to file a lawsuit supporting his claim next month.

The USOC adamantly denied Dr. Wade Exum's allegation Wednesday.

``We find it incredible that the individual charged with the direction and the success of our own drug program now is criticizing it and challenging its effectiveness,'' USOC spokesman Mike Moran said. ``He's going to have to back up those allegations with facts, and we expect to be able to effectively deal with those allegations.''

Exum, one of the Olympic committee's highest-ranking black staff members, resigned as the USOC's director of drug control administration June 5 after nine years with USOC. He said he had become a ``racial token'' subjected to a hostile and intolerable working environment.

His resignation letter also said the USOC encouraged the doping of athletes without regard to their health. The accusations intensified Tuesday when he and his lawyers issued a news release saying: ``In recent years, absolutely no sanction has been imposed on about half of all American athletes who have tested positive for prohibited substances.''

``What kind of enforcement is that?'' Exum's lawyer, John Pineau, asked.

Pineau declined to cite specific names or examples of athletes who tested positive, but said he would be able to provide evidence to support Exum's claim. He expects to file a federal lawsuit sometime next month.

``I don't think they're going to be in for an awakening,'' Pineau said of USOC officials. ``I think they're fully aware of all of this.''

Exum's lawsuit also is expected to include claims that he was asked to take part in a project that involved testing prohibited substances on humans ``using a protocol that amounted to racial profiling.''

The USOC recently participated in a study to develop tests for the banned substance EPO and the Human Growth Hormone.

The multimillion-dollar study, funded by the International Olympic Committee and the Australian government, involved 74 athletes at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and volunteers at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

``We absolutely provided athletes which are a cross-section of United States Olympic team based on gender, race, age and place of residence for that study,'' Moran said. ``To call it racial profiling is reckless and without merit.''

Exum also complained that his authority was undermined by having to work under the supervision of Jim Page, currently the USOC's managing director of sport development. Page was banned from the U.S. Skiing Association after he confessed to approving a blood-doping plan for a U.S. Nordic skier in 1987.

``If I'm a police officer and my job is to keep drugs off the streets and they take a convicted felon and make him my boss, would that make a lot of sense?'' Pineau said. ``That's a little troubling to me.''

Moran said Page was reinstated by the U.S. Skiing Association in 1990 and had not been Exum's supervisor for at least the last three years.

``That is an issue that is no longer in any way, shape or form connected with Wade Exum's allegations,'' Moran said.

It is still unknown what kind of damages Exum will ask for in his lawsuit.

``I know we have a number of theories we're researching, making sure we are consistent with the law,'' Pineau said. ``We've got lots of facts. It's more of a question of finding the law that applies.''

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press