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Documents could reveal hidden positives dating back 20 years
Attorneys representing the U.S. Olympic Committee’s former medical director have subpoenaed a series of documents they allege contain the names of hundreds of athletes whose positive dope tests have been covered up by Olympic officials.
Doctor Wade Exum, who until his “forced resignation” in 2000 served as the USOC’s director of drug control administration, filed an employment discrimination suit against his former employers in federal court that summer.
A federal appeals court has since ruled that the case was not one that fell within the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary and so the case was re-filed in a state district court in Colorado Springs in February of this year.
Since his original filing nearly five years ago, Exum has alleged that American Olympic officials had “thrown road blocks in the path of anti-doping enforcement,” during his nine-year tenure.
Responsibility for doping control has since passed to the U.S. affiliate of the World Anti-Doping Agency, USADA. Despite the claimed independence of the new anti-doping agency, Exum has charged that USADA’s staffing was largely driven by internal Olympic committee politics and that he was specifically excluded based both on race and his approach to doping control.
“The ethics under which Plaintiff works stem from his medical concern and knowledge of the public health menace created by the inappropriate and illegal use of science and medicine for the purposes of enhancing athletic performance,” the suit charges. “However, this concern for athletes’ health has been repeatedly obstructed, marginalized, interfered with, and denigrated by his superiors, despite the fact that these superiors do not possess medical degrees, and do not understand the danger of inappropriate use of medications, drugs, and doping techniques.”
Exum has charged that USOC officials were directly involved in the cover-up of positives among top athletes and that knowledge of those quashed results “went all the way to the top.”
Indeed, two years ago a list of positive test results was released in conjunction with Exum’s federal case, triggering a storm of controversy after it was revealed that sprinter Carl Lewis and two of his training partners had actually tested positive for three types of banned stimulants at the 1988 Olympic trials. Lewis finished second in the 100-meter sprint at the Seoul Olympics, a result that was later changed to first place when Canadian Ben Johnson failed a test for steroids.
Documents released to Exum by the USOC as part of the case showed that Lewis had tested positive for pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine, stimulants commonly found in cold medicines.
At the time, World Anti-Doping Agency chairman, Dick Pound, dismissed suggestions that the matter was dropped simply because Lewis and others had “no intent” to dope and had unintentionally ingested the stimulants. Pound, who reviewed copies of documents in the case, said that U.S. officials appeared to be pursuing a policy of “automatic forgiveness” in matters involving top athletes.
Exum released thousands of pages of documents to Sports Illustrated in 2003, confirming widespread suspicion of the USOC drug-testing system before it was moved to USADA after the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
The documents showed that one U.S. athlete tested positive for steroids in 1999 but was still allowed to compete at the Sydney Games, ultimately winning a gold medal. American Olympic continue to cite privacy rules as reason not to release the name the gold medalist or those of 13 other athletes who had failed drug tests in the year leading up to the 2000 Olympics.
A 2004 review of USOC doping control efforts by the International Olympic Committee concluded that problems had existed in the past, but the international governing body declined to pursue the matter any further.
Exum and his attorneys, however, say that the 2003 list was incomplete and disputed claims by USOC officials that they were unable to locate up to 150 pages of documents sought by plaintiffs in the case. Subpoenas issued this week suggest that those same officials knew of the existence of documents outlining other positives, but failed to turn them over as part of the discovery process in the federal suit.
The missing documents, attorneys have suggested, date back to the 1980s and include the names of athletes who have gone on to remarkably successful Olympic and professional careers in a host of disciplines.
A subpoena issued to the Olympic committee’s custodian of records on Wednesday orders the delivery of “any documents that may be a compendium, collection, summary or recording of athlete drug tests and results, including athlete’s names, test results, substances involved and/or possible sanctions (if any) as collected and recorded from approximately 1984 through 2000…”
The subpoena calls for those documents to be delivered to state district court in El Paso County on or before a scheduled May 23 hearing.
The subpoena goes on to suggest that earlier submissions were incomplete and that USOC officials were in possession of 150 pages of documents that they subsequently failed to release.
That is an assertion disputed by USOC chief communications officer Darryl Seibel, who declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but noted that “no such list surfaced” in a 2003 review of documents.
Exum attorney John Pineau, however, included a letter written to his client by a former colleague that suggests otherwise. About two months after the initial release of documents in 2003, Exum’s one-time assistant, Joan Price, wrote to ask why the list had been so short.
“In thinking about your ongoing efforts to finalize developments with USOC, I wonder why your disclosure of positive results as reported in the news was incomplete,” Price wrote Exum in July of 2003. “In the final week of my employment with the USOC division of drug control, I printed out a complete results report from the AS 400 data base and turned it over to the USOC. I’m sure you will remember it to be the one that contained names, positive substances and sanctions or lack of sanctions dating back to the 1980s. At any rate, I am sure that the missing information can be found in that document.”
Pineau has subpoenaed Price and Linda Barnes, USADA’s testing results coordinator, to testify at a hearing tentatively scheduled for May 23, in Colorado Springs.
At the time of his original filing in 2000, Exum said he had no reservations about revealing names.
“You can’t really further tarnish the reputation of someone who has decided to cheat by using drugs,” he said. “And those that have decided to compete cleanly can’t be touched.”