Sports Drug Agency To Investigate

Wednesday, July 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) — A high-ranking judge will investigate claims that Australian sports officials have condoned and covered up widespread drug use among Olympic athletes.

Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates on Wednesday appointed judge Tricia Kavanagh, a former deputy chairwoman of the Australian Sports Drug Agency, to conduct an independent inquiry.

The Australian Sports Drug Agency would also investigate the claims made by Werner Reiterer — a former Olympic discus thrower and admitted drug cheat — in his new book ``Positive.''

Reiterer said officials covered up drug use by being complicit in a schedule of testing that allowed suspect athletes to avoid doping tests. He agreed to cooperate with investigators but refused to implicate any officials.

Coates said it took ``a fair bit of guts'' for Reiterer to expose any wrongdoing.

The AOC ``will fully investigate it, and if, out of the investigation, the system is improved, then (Reiterer) will have achieved something and that may, in his own mind, overcome the shame that he must feel,'' he said.

Australian Sports Drug Agency chief executive Natalie Howson said there was no evidence to back Reiterer's claims, but they would require a thorough investigation.

``Our systems are set up against international standards that are designed to minimize athletes avoiding testing,'' said Howson, adding that no-notice and out-of-competition testing are on the rise.

Meanwhile, Kavanagh was reportedly preparing to interview Reiterer on Thursday.

Reiterer, now retired, admitted to spending about $12,000 each year since 1995 on banned performance-enhancing substances. He said his coach was unaware of his drug-taking, but athletics officials knew of it.

The 1994 Commonwealth Games discus gold medalist said he was given advice from ``an Olympic administrator'' about the timing of doping tests and about what levels of certain substances were acceptable.

Swimmers and track athletes are still using illegal human growth hormones, which are undetectable using conventional testing methods, he said.

Australia's swimmers had access to more powerful drugs than other athletes because of their higher profile, he added.

Coates, at the forefront of Australia's tough anti-drug stance, said the claims are disturbing.

But Australian Swimming officials described them as ``completely unfounded'' and ``outrageous.''

Australian Swimming spokesman Ian Hanson said the sport's national governing body was taking legal advice.