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|August 26, 2000||
Diet pills, not drugs: SA coach
A South African swim coach who had tablets confiscated on his arrival in Australia on Friday for the Sydney Olympics said they were harmless diet pills.
Graham Hill, coach of highly-rated deaf breaststroker Terence Parkin, told a news conference the tablets were for his personal use.
In Johannesburg, South Africa's National Olympic Committee (NOCSA) said there had been "a gross distortion" in a report that the coach had been caught entering Australia with a banned drug.
Fourteen tablets of MaHuang, a Chinese herb used as a stimulant, were seized by Perth airport customs on Wednesday from Hill.
Australian Customs spokesman Leon Bedington said with three weeks until the Olympics start on September 15, 160 tablets of "a similar product" had been seized at Brisbane airport a day later in a separate incident.
Beddington stressed that MaHuang, also called Hydroxica, was not classified as a performance enhancing drug under customs law. It can be imported in small quantities if accompanied by a physician's prescription.
If no prescription is presented, the drugs are seized and no further action taken, Bedington said.
NOCSA spokesman Chris Day said Hill personally declared the tablets to customs officials in Perth, where a party of South African swimmers and coaches, travelling to Melbourne to compete in a Grand Prix meeting as part of their Olympic build-up, had first entered Australia.
"They told him that the pills contained (the banned stimulant) ephedrine and said they would have to confiscate them. They gave him a notice of seizure and sent him on his way," said Day.
"Hydroxica are over-the-counter, non-prescription, weight-reducing tablets, which he uses for weight-reducing purposes," said Day.
The substance is widely available over the counter in other countries.
Hill told the Melbourne news conference, that he used the dietary supplement tablets to control his weight and was "embarrassed by all the attention."
"NOCSA is completely satisfied with his explanation," Day said in Johannesburg.
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