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Samaranch denies softening stand on drugs
IOC chief looking to re-evaluate banned substances list
Posted: Tuesday July 28, 1998 10:24 AM
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- International Olympic Committee chief Juan Antonio Samaranch has denied softening his stand on performance-enhancing drugs in sport, Sydney Olympics Minister Michael Knight said Tuesday.
Knight spoke to Samaranch by telephone on Tuesday as Australian athletes and sports administrators protested over a Spanish newspaper interview in which Samaranch said athletes should be able to use "harmless" drugs that improved their performance.
"Mr. Samaranch assured me the IOC's campaign against drugs in sport would continue with full determination and vigor," Knight said.
"Regarding the comments attributed to him in the Spanish newspaper purporting to draw a distinction between performance-enhancing drugs which harmed athletes and those which don't, he made it clear he believed there were no performance enhancing drugs that did not cause harm to the health of the athletes.
"No such drugs existed is the way the president explained it to me in the conversation."
IOC medical commission vice chairman Jacques Rogge also moved to hose down suggestions that Samaranch was softening his stance.
"I spoke with him yesterday and I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about what he said actually and the way it was printed was a little bit inaccurate," Rogge told a Sydney radio station.
"President Samaranch is a keen defender of the fight against doping and obviously for him there is absolutely no doubt there are two reasons to have drugs on the anti-doping list -- one is to protect the health of the athlete and secondly is all the drugs that enhance performance," he said.
Rogge said what Samaranch wanted was to see if the list of banned drugs could be simplified because there were some drugs and compounds, put on the list years ago, which were no longer considered a doping threat, such as codeine which was recently removed.
Rogge dismissed suggestions that a planned January seminar on doping to be convened by the IOC could see a major change in policy.
"The January seminar will be basically a big conference where we have everyone around the table to see how we can improve the fight against doping.
"It is not going to be a conference to drastically change the philosophy, the philosophy will remain the same but more I think a matter of finding the best strategies."
Earlier, Australian Sports Minister Andrew Thomson said it was appalling that Australia's efforts to fight drug use at the 2000 Olympics had been undermined by Samaranch.
Samaranch was quoted in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo on Sunday as saying the list of banned substances should be "drastically" reduced and that drugs which don't damage an athlete's health should not be prohibited.
"Doping now is everything that, firstly, is harmful to an athlete's health and, secondly, artificially augments his performance," he was quoted as saying. "If it's just the second case, for me that's not doping. If it's the first case, it is."
Thomson said he burst into laughter when he first read about Samaranch's comments.
"If true it's the most extraordinary thing anyone has ever said in elite sport," he said.
"No one could understand someone coming here, the head of a big movement, and making some strong statements about anti-doping, just last April, and then uttering something that is apparently entirely contradictory to it a few months later. It's too bizarre to be true."
Dual Olympic swimming gold medalist Kieren Perkins called for separate lists of banned substances to be drawn up for individual sports to take some of the confusion out the drugs in sport issue.
Perkins was cautious about Samaranch's comments.
"I can only pray and hope that ... he was talking about maybe streamlining the IOC's list of banned drugs a little bit," the triple world recordholder said.
"I think the issue really is that we've got a situation where the banned list is a very long list, it's a complex list and there probably are a lot of drugs on the list which in reality aren't performance enhancing in a lot of sports."
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