THE DESERET NEWS
Salt Lake City, Utah-- January 8, 2004
RETESTS DETECT NO OLYMPIC THG
By Ray Grass
The retesting of blood and urine samples taken from athletes in the 2002 Winter Olympics revealed no sign of the new designer steroid tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG, leaving officials to believe it may only have been used on a limited scale or it simply wasn't available.
In a briefly worded statement, the International Olympic Committee said Wednesday the samples were all clean. The IOC started retesting on Dec. 4 on "advice from experts, who confirmed that it was legally and scientifically possible to do so."
THG was unmasked this summer as a steroid chemically modified to avoid detection in standard tests. Since then a test for THG has been developed at a UCLA lab.
At least five track and field athletes, including British sprinter Dwain Chambers and U.S. middle-distance runner Regina Jacobs and shot-putter Kevin Toth, as well as four NFL players, have tested positive for THG.
The IOC did not indicate how many of the more than 1,000 samples taken in Salt Lake City were retested.
For Douglas Rollins, who headed the Salt Lake drug-testing program, the retesting proved "that what we did was right."
"The emergence of THG was a concern," he said, "thinking maybe that we may have overlooked the drug, and not only by us, but by everyone. The fact we had a number of positive cases is an indication that some athletes were not above using drugs."
In 2002, six athletes — three cross-country skiers, an alpine skier, a hockey player and speed skater — tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, which was more positive readings than from any of the previous Winter Games. Two cross-country skiers and the alpine skier were stripped of their medals. The other athletes did not medal.
The Nordic skiers tested positive for what was then a new banned endurance-boosting substance — darbepoetin.
Bob Weiner, a former White House drug spokesman who was involved in the Salt Lake Games, said darbepoetin was, at the time, the new rage and that it was because of the inclusion of the words "and related substances" that retesting was possible and, in the case of the Salt Lake Games, "cheaters" were detected.
"The IOC got smart and put in the 'and related substances' in its drug policy. Now, if you are a world-class athlete, you have to live by the rules, even if a drug isn't on the list of banned substances, which is the case with darbepoetin," he explained.
"It says to athletes that you are not allowed to cheat."
Samples from the Salt Lake Olympics were collected, tested and then frozen.
Now, said Weiner, to strengthen the IOC's drug policy even more, "There needs to be no time limit on how long those samples are kept. Retroactive sampling is the key to deterrence. We may not have tests available for all the drugs now, but we will down the road.
"We need to keep the pressure on the athletes. Right now it's a close race — athletes trying to stay ahead of testing and the testing trying to stay ahead of the athletes. There can be no statute of limitations on drug cheating," he said.
"And we're not just talking just about elite athletes. Last year, 500,000 kids used steroids. What these athletes do is a model to the kids across the country. What we're talking about here is deadly consequences. What the IOC did is a blip on the radar screen, albeit a good one. But there's a lot more to do."
Jacques Rogge, IOC president, said in the release, "These scientific findings are reassuring and confirm my initial gut feeling that THG was used on a limited scale (in Salt Lake City). Nevertheless, the IOC will remain vigilant and will continue to deploy all means and resources to fight against doping."
Rollins said he had a staff of more than 300 people who collected samples from athletes.
Along with the IOC's testing, international governing bodies in track, swimming and tennis have also conducted tests for THG.