NEYORKPOST

SUNDAY, JULY 13, 2003

THE CZAR & THE JOCKS
W's drug war ignores sports

By ROBERT WEINER & COLIN MILLER

July 13, 2003 -- THE sad list of athletes, famous and average, caught abusing drugs continues to grow.

Former Oakland As slugger Jose Conseco, with 482 homers and three world series championships, just admitted to being a "steroid addict." In spring training this year, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler collapsed and died and it was later revealed he had been using the energy supplement ephedra.

More than half a million U.S. high school students used steroids last year to beef up their athletic image and attempt to increase their sports efficiency. We sadly now learn of a coverup by the U.S. Olympic Committee of drug-test documents before the 1988 Seoul games.

One voice that has been unusually quiet on the issue of drugs in sports is the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Drug Czar John Walters. Unlike his predecessor, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Walters has taken a passive position: He has not put together one national news conference on sports drug policy and has sent well-meaning but lesser surrogates (his deputy director and general counsel) to international conferences instead of personally appearing.

To be fair, 9/11 has obliged Waters to focus on foreign drug links to terrorism. Still, we must keep in mind that 52,000 Americans die here at home from drug abuse and high-school abusers will be the next generation of grown-up addicts.

McCaffrey ran a high-profile media campaign and often fought against drug use by athletes. He personally worked closely with (and sometimes against) the International Olympic Committee to establish the World Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees drug testing for all Olympic sports, and its American counterpart, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Under Walters and the Bush administration, the United States has been delinquent with dues to WADA - inexcusably and severely hampering the organization's ability to test and conduct research. And when WADA and the IOC, with 80 nations' representatives, announced the creation of the World Code for drug testing in March, Walters himself did nothing more than put out an all but ignored statement.

The drug czar must publicly and actively educate athletes and the public and be a high-powered advocate. It is hypocritical for some pro athletes to be exempt from the accepted world standard for fair athletic competition. Without real, visible support from the drug czar, groups such as the WADA and the IOC will have reduced leverage against the players' unions, which oppose serious testing.

The NFL ban on ephedrine is only the first step in cleaning up professional sports. Baseball has no such ban. Must another Steve Bechler die?

The sport needs discipline against other drugs too. Everyone remembers the great Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run race, but not everyone saw McGwire's numbers plummet when he stopped using the energy supplement andro.

Steroids, amphetamines, abused painkillers, EPO and human growth hormone can seriously injure people. Some 10,000 former East German swimmers have found that they have liver damage, diabetes, cancers and other serious effects of forced steroid drugging by their national trainers. Questions remain about Florence Griffith Joyner's death 10 years after she suddenly stopped competing - her autopsy showed no drugs, but drug tests are useless within months of last drug intake.

If drug cheating isn't eliminated, all honest athletes will be put under pressure to mortgage their future for a few moments of glory. With the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens approaching and the US Olympic Committee in shambles due to recent scandals, it is critical for the drug czar and his office to take the lead in the fight for drug-free sports.

Robert Weiner, drug policy and public affairs consultant, was director of public affairs for the White House National Drug Policy Office 1995-2001. Colin Miller, a junior at Johns Hopkins University, is vice president of the men's rugby team.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: SUNDAY, JULY 13. 2003

Contact: Bob Weiner / Colin Miller 301-283-0821 or 202-329-1700

DRUG CZAR SLAMMED FOR "SILENCE" AGAINST DRUGS IN SPORTS BY FORMER OFFICE SPOKESMAN

(Washington, DC) - U.S. Drug Czar John Walters is being slammed for "silence" in the fight against drugs in sports by former office spokesman Bob Weiner.

"The Drug Czar's silence is not golden - it tarnishes sports," says Weiner, who wrote an oped in today's New York Post together with Colin Miller, a junior at Johns Hopkins University and vice-president of the men's Rugby team. Weiner was Director of Public Affairs for the White House National Drug Policy Office 1995-2001.

Weiner and Miller assert that despite a growing "sad list of athletes, famous and average, caught using drugs", including former Oakland A's slugger Jose Conseco now admitting he was a "steroid addict", and "over a half million high school students who used steroids last year", "One voice that has been unusually quiet on the issue of drugs in sports is the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Drug Czar, John Walters."

Weiner and Miller point out that, "Unlike his predecessor, four-star General Barry McCaffrey, Walters has taken a passive position; he has not put together one national news conference on sports drug policy and he has been sending well-meaning but lesser surrogates to international conferences instead of personally appearing."

"Under Walters and the Bush administration, the U.S. has been delinquent with dues to WADA, which is not only inexcusable, but severely hampers the organization's ability to test and conduct research. When WADA and the IOC, with eighty country's representatives, announced the creation of the World Code for drug testing in March, Walters did nothing more than put out an all but ignored statement."

"The Drug Czar must publicly and actively educate athletes and the public and be a high-powered advocate. Without the visible support (beyond a written press release) of the Drug Czar, organizations such as WADA and the IOC will have reduced leverage against the Players' Unions who oppose serious testing."

"The NFL ban on ephedrine is only the first step in cleaning up professional sports. Baseball has no such ban. Must another Steve Bechler die? The sport needs discipline against other drugs too. Everyone remembers the great Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run race, but not everyone saw McGwire's numbers plummet when he stopped using the energy supplement andro."

"Steroids, amphetamines, abused painkillers, EPO, and human growth hormone can seriously injure people. 10,000 former East German swimmers have recently found that they have liver damage, diabetes, cancers, and other serious effects of forced steroid drugging by their national trainers."

Weiner and Miller point out that prior Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey "ran a high profile media campaign and often fought against drug use by athletes. He personally worked closely with (and sometimes against) the International Olympic Committee to establish the World Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees drug testing for all Olympic sports, and its American counterpart, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency."

The pair conclude, "If drug cheating isn't eliminated, all honest athletes will be put under pressure to mortgage their future for a few moments of glory. With the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens approaching and the US Olympic Committee in shambles due to recent scandals, it is critical for the Drug Czar and his office to take the lead in the fight for drug free sports."

(Source: Robert Weiner Associates 301-283-0821 or 202-329-1700).