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Rediff.com  » Sports » IOC urged to make US a sports outcast

IOC urged to make US a sports outcast

November 21, 2003 16:41 IST
The head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) wants the United States to be turned into a sports pariah unless it make a more serious commitment to the fight against performance enhancing drugs.

WADA president Dick Pound is dismayed at the White House's recent funding cuts to WADA and the trivial penalties being handed out by Major League Baseball (MLB) and the NFL for positive steroid tests.

Pound told Reuters on Thursday he would consider urging International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge to pressure member sports federations to remove all international competitions from the US.

"If Jacques Rogge goes around to all the federations and says, 'Don't have any events in the United States,' and turns them into a pariah... hopefully that will get some attention from Pennsylvania Avenue," he said after WADA's executive board meetings.

"The problem is the difference between real sport and entertainment sport. In real sport they take cheating seriously, in entertainment sport they don't give a shit... baseball is just ludicrous."

A week after MLB announced it would begin testing for steroids next season, Pound was still shaking his head over the testing procedure and scale of suspensions.

LIGHT SUSPENSIONS

Suspensions, which are laid out in the MLB's collective bargaining agreement, appear light in comparison to the bans faced by athletes competing in Olympic events.

Under the MLB agreement with the players union, first time offenders will be placed in treatment and education programs and be subject to additional testing.

A second positive test will result in a maximum 15 day suspension and $10,000 fine, while anyone testing positive five times will face a possible one-year ban and $100,000. All the suspensions would be without pay.

NFL penalties are only slightly more severe.

The four Oakland Raiders, who this week were reported to have tested positive for the new designer steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), would face only four-game bans while second time offenders receive a six-game suspension.

A player producing a third positive test could receive a

maximum one year suspension.

In contrast, Olympic athletes face two-year bans from competition for a first time offence.

"It's like you can hold up a drug store five times before you have to do any serious time," said Pound, shaking his head. "How Major League Baseball thought that was responsive I can't imagine. It was insulting.

"I've been on talk shows in the U.S. and the public is really offended by baseball.

"It's like a father taking his son to the ballpark and saying, "my boy, one day if you fill yourself full of this crap one day you might be a ball player."

FUNDING CRISIS

The most pressing problem facing WADA ahead of Friday's Foundation board meeting is a funding crisis.

Pound said the agency had received less than two-thirds of the funding expected from countries for 2003. Late payers included the United States, which has trimmed its $1 million contribution to $800,000.

Already forced to cut back the number of planned random tests by a third to 5,000 in 2003, Pound said he feared that further reduced funding would result in even fewer tests next year and a reduction in research.

"If we got our money we would have more time to go after them (MLB) on certain issues," said Pound. "But right now we're at the point where we don't even take plane trips anymore.

"Our first priority remains the Olympic movement and sports movement.

"But significant drug testing in the American professional sports is important because the effect professional sport has on youth is out of proportion to the Olympic movement."

So far, North America's major sports leagues have dismissed WADA and Pound's outrage.

Gene Orza, a top official in the MLB players' union, labelled Pound and his organisation irrelevant while NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has refused to return WADA calls.

"Bettman doesn't answer our calls and the White House has done nothing," said Pound, a Canadian lawyer and influential IOC member. "A representative of the White House was here (in Montreal) and wouldn't even talk to us."

Source:
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