WADA Head Criticizes Supplement Cos.
Mon Feb 18, 7:42 PM ET
By LARRY SIDDONS, AP Sports Writer
SALT LAKE CITY - The World Anti-Doping Agency criticized food-supplement makers Monday and urged Olympic sports to avoid sponsorships with them until there are guarantees the products are drug-free.
Athletes risk violating rules on banned substances because supplements aren't covered by federal drug-screening laws, said Dick Pound, an IOC member from Canada and head of the first independent agency to oversee drug testing and education in sports.
"You are in a buyer-beware situation," Pound said. "You have to ask, 'Why is the industry fighting so much?' Because they know that the stuff is creating a doping problem."
An International Olympic Committee study, yet to be completed, found about 20 percent of more than 600 supplements tested contained at least small amounts of banned performance enhancers.
Until all supplements are screened for contamination, athletes and sports bodies should stop signing sponsorship deals, Pound said.
"I'd be reluctant to have a sponsorship arrangement while the industry is fighting regulation and offering disinformation," he said.
Supplements, which can be bought over the counter in health-food and nutrition stores, have been blamed for a number of drug positives in recent years, usually involving tests for nandrolone, a strength-building steroid.
Most recently, U.S. bobsledder Pavle Jovanovic of Toms River, N.J., was suspended for two years after testing positive for traces of nandrolone that he believes was in a protein powder his coach gave him as a meal substitute.
Jovanovic also told an arbitration panel that he used 31 different supplements. The case showed that repeated warnings of tainted supplements were being ignored, Pound said.
"Those who use nutritional supplements with this knowledge are either being deliberate or reckless," he said. "It's always the same: 'I didn't know, someone gave it to me, I got it off the toilet seat.' We have to eliminate the series of denials."
A handful of athletes at the Winter Games have sponsorship deals with supplement companies. In addition, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee have a joint sponsorship agreement with Pharmanex, a Provo, Utah-based supplement manufacturer.
USOC CEO Lloyd Ward, who inherited the Pharmanex contract when he took over late last year, said he, too, was concerned with the issue and would address it "very aggressively."
"You can't put your athletes in jeopardy," he said.
Pharmanex president Joseph Chang said his company's products "were produced at the highest levels."
The supplement industry and Olympic officials "just have to work together," he said. "Polarization doesn't help the athletes."
Pound said he was pleased with progress of WADA-led efforts so far. Most of the 2,500 athletes in Salt Lake City were tested before competition began and, through the first week, there were no drug positives from almost 1,000 in-competition tests at the Winter Games.
"I think the message is getting out," he said. "Everyone knows they face tests. Everyone."
The first possible doping case was thrown out Monday because the drug test wasn't handled properly.
WADA's "top line" in 2002 will be research on drug use and testing, including the use of genetics to improve performance, Pound said. A conference of genetics experts is scheduled for March 16-18 in suburban New York.
"We will ask them, 'Tell us where you think this is going. How fast and what is possible,'" Pound said. "We're going to be very proactive."
He also said WADA hoped to have a uniform drug code and penalties for all Olympic sports in place by the Athens Games in 2004.
Such a code would eliminate cases similar to that of Sandis Prusis, a Latvian bobsledder who flunked a test for nandrolone and received a three-month suspension from his sports federation that ended just before Olympic competition. IOC efforts to bar Prusis from the games were overturned by an appeals panel, which said the federation's own rules took precedent.
WALL STREET JOURNAL, February 19, 2002:
Richard Pound and WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees drug testing for all 35 International Sports Federations including all Olympic sports) “urged Salt Lake organizers, before they signed the Pharmanex deal, to reject sponsorships from supplement makers. But SLOC, slowed by its bid scandal at the time, needed the money.”