Officials Check Doping Reports on Thorpe

Friday, March 30th 2007, 8:32 pm
By: News On 6

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) _ Australian swim officials huddled Saturday to discuss a report that Ian Thorpe, the world record holder and Olympic champion, showed ``abnormal levels'' of two banned substances in a doping test last year before he retired.

The French sports daily L'Equipe reported on its Web site Friday that anti-doping officials in Australia threw out the case against Thorpe, one of the sport's most recognizable athletes, for lack of scientific proof.

But the newspaper said FINA, the governing body of swimming, wants the investigation reopened.

Ian Hanson, a spokesman for Australian Swimming, said officials would meet later Saturday.

``We have not had a chance to discuss it,'' Hanson said. ``We need to get together to discuss all the facts.''

FINA, organizer of the world championships that end Sunday in Melbourne, planned a news conference with organization president Mustapha Larfaoui.

``That was already scheduled,'' FINA spokesman Pedro Adrega said. ``Obviously now there will be a few more questions.''

Calls to Thorpe's manager, Sydney-based Dave Flaskas, were not immediately returned.

Thorpe retired in November at age 24. He did not compete in another major international meet after the 2004 Athens Olympics, scuttling any thoughts of a return because of injuries, illness and a lack of motivation.

L'Equipe said Thorpe turned up irregular levels of testosterone and luteinizing hormone in a test on May 2006.

Synthetic versions of testosterone, the male hormone, can act like steroids to improve performance. Luteinizing hormone is released by the pituitary gland and produces testosterone in men.

FINA has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the highest tribunal in the sports world, to overturn a decision by Australia's anti-doping agency to close the case, L'Equipe said.

CAS secretary-general Matthieu Reeb did not answer messages from The Associated Press left at his home and the court's headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Thorpe won five Olympic gold medals, claimed 11 world titles and set 13 world records in his career.

In November 2005, Thorpe's return to competitive swimming after a 15-month break lasted one race. He qualified fastest for the 100-meter freestyle final at a World Cup short-course meet in Sydney, then pulled out because he wasn't feeling well.

Thorpe also was scheduled to swim at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne last March, but withdrew a week before they started because of a virus.

At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Thorpe thrilled his countrymen by winning the 400-meter freestyle and was part of Australia's winning 400 and 800-meter relay teams. He also took silver in the 200 freestyle and 400 medley relay.

Four years later in Athens, Thorpe won the 200 and 400 freestyle golds and the 100 bronze in Athens, along with a silver in the 800 freestyle relay.

Thorpe followed the Sydney Games with his greatest performance ever. At age 18, he became the first swimmer to win six gold medals at the world championships, claiming three individual titles and taking part in three relay victories in 2001 at Fukuoka, Japan.

Thorpe set world records in all three of his solo wins: the 200, 400 and 800 freestyles. He also was part of the record-setting Australian team in the 800 free relay.

Thorpe still holds the world mark in the 400, which he took even lower at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. His 800 mark was claimed in 2005 by countryman Grant Hackett, while the 200 record fell this week to American Michael Phelps at the worlds in Melbourne.