Olympic Team Official Caught With Drug

Airport customs agents seized banned performance-enhancing drugs from an Uzbekistan Olympic team official Thursday morning, Olympic official Jacques Rogge said.

"There was a member of the Uzbekistan delegation who was caught at the airport with illegal drugs," said Rogge, vice chairman of the International Olympic Committee's medical commission. "All the publicity of drug controls did not seep into Uzbekistan."

The Australian Customs Service said it detained a small quantity of what appears to be human growth hormone found in the luggage of an Olympic team official.

"The label is clearly marked as human growth hormone," said Leon Bedington, the Olympics spokesman for the customs service. "But it has not been chemically analyzed."


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Bedington said he could not predict when laboratory tests would be completed. He refused to identify the gender, age or nationality of the suspected official. But he said the person was not an athlete, was neither detained nor arrested, and was cooperating with authorities.

Under an Australian law passed in March, a person caught illegally importing a performance-enhancing drug like HGH could face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $57,000 fine.

The person carrying the substance was stopped based on "risk assessment," said Bedington, who added that they do not do random or routine searches.

The seizure was the first since teams began arriving for the Sydney Olympics, which start Sept. 15.

The IOC has approved a test to detect the use of the banned synthetic hormone erythropoietin, or EPO, considered the drug of choice for endurance athletes, but there is still no test to detect HGH.

HGH, which helps build muscles, is produced naturally by the pituitary gland. A synthetic form of the drug is used therapeutically, especially to treat slow growth in children.

IOC officials said they would investigate and said any athlete or coach found carrying drugs could be stripped of Olympic accreditation.

IOC vice president and head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Dick Pound, said the seizure highlighted the success of heightened cooperation between the IOC and national governments in efforts to crack down on drug use in sport.

"You have got to be nuts with all the publicity on cracking down on drug use in the games to come whistling through customs with HGH," he said. "It seems reckless to me."

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee said on Thursday it would add up to 200 tests for the drug EPO as doping scandals threatened to overshadow the run-up to the Sydney Games.

The IOC originally planned only 301 tests for stamina-boostinerythropoietin.

"If the first batch of 301 tests goes well, then we will make a second batch of 100-200 tests," IOC medical commission member Patrick Schamasch said.

The decision came a day after China said it had dropped 27 athletes from its Olympic team, including some for "suspicious" test results.

The IOC, under fire for the last two years for corruption, was applauded last month for approving a combined blood-urine test for EPO in time for the Sydney Games on September 15.

The IOC began the tests, developed by Australian and French laboratories, a day after the athletes' village opened on September 2.

Schamasch said that around 20 tests had been conducted by Thursday and the first results were expected soon.

He said the tests were mostly random although special attention was paid to endurance athletes such as cyclists, long-distance runners and swimmers.

"We are focusing mainly on endurance sports," Schamasch said.

"All the other sports may be tested but because we only have a limited number of tests we don't want to waste it."

EPO stimulates the production of red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body. It is produced naturally but if it enters the body artificially it can be fatal, making the blood thick and gluey and breaking down the entire circulatory system.

EPO was one of the drugs involved in the 1998 Tour de France doping scandal and put intense pressure on sporting authorities to take tough action against the abuse of performance-enhancing substances.


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