Official: Doping Issue 'Improved' 
Sat Feb 23, 5:33 PM ET
By LARRY SIDDONS, AP Sports Writer

SALT LAKE CITY - The problem of doping "appears vastly improved" at the Winter Olympics compared with previous major sports events, World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound said Saturday. As the IOC awaited word on what could be the first official doping case of the Salt Lake City Games, Pound said 3,600 out-of-competition tests over the last year had warned athletes they can't get away with using performance enhancers.

He also praised "increasingly strong athlete support for a level playing field, testing during the games themselves and a new anti-doping culture with strong International Olympic Committee support."

"The drug problem at the Salt Lake Olympics appears vastly improved over other major world and Olympic competitions," Pound said.

Pound, an IOC member from Canada, offered no statistics to support his contention. And while the Summer Olympics generally produce a handful of drug positives, the Winter Games are more immune to the problem. Only five drug cases have been confirmed since the first Winter Olympics in 1924, none in the past three games.

But winter sports have been hit hard by doping scandals in recent years, most notably the 2001 World Nordic Championships in Lahti, Finland, where six members of the host nation's cross-country ski team tested positive for drugs.

While there have been no official drug positives through the first 15 days in Salt Lake City, the games have not been immune from doping issues.

A short-track speedskater from Belarus was given a severe warning by the IOC on Friday for steroids found in her system, but the case was not considered a drug positive and she was allowed to remain in the Olympic Village and march in the closing ceremony.

The IOC's executive board found Yulia Pavlovich, who abruptly checked out of the village Monday rather than submit to another test for nandrolone, had inadvertently taken the drug in a food supplement supplied by her team doctor and coach. Both officials were expelled from the games.

Pavlovich's first test, which found steroid levels 380 times the limit, was tossed out because of a broken seal on the bag carrying her urine sample to the lab.

On Saturday, the IOC awaited results of a urine test from Larissa Lazutina, a cross-country skiing superstar from Russia.

Lazutina was barred from competition in Thursday's 20-kilometer relay when a pre-race test found high levels of hemoglobin. While the test, administered by the international ski federation, was deemed a health precaution, a drug test sample also was taken by the IOC.