Thursday, September 27, 2007

World anti-doping chief praises Beijing Olympics preparations, help in U.S. steroid raids - Thursday September 27, 2007 12:49PM

The war on drugs -- Olympic style. - More Sports - World anti-doping chief praises Beijing Olympics preparations, help in U.S. steroid raids - Thursday September 27, 2007 12:49PM The head of the World Anti-Doping Agency on Thursday praised China's assistance in massive U.S. raids on illegal labs that recovered millions of doses of steroids, much of which originated in China.

Dick Pound also endorsed new Chinese drug-control measures and said the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics were on track to be the most doping-free in the event's recent history.

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"All in all, when you look around the world and see what other countries are doing, I think it's now safe to say that China is in the vanguard of this," Pound said.

Federal authorities on Monday announced the largest crackdown on illegal steroids in U.S. history Monday, arresting more than 120 people, seizing 11.4 million steroid doses, and raiding dozens of labs that manufactured growth hormone.

The investigators were helped by governments of nine other countries, including China. Among those facing charges are a Chinese manufacturer accused of smuggling human growth hormone into the U.S. and others who allegedly got steroids from China and sold them to U.S. customers. In all, investigators seized more than 500 pounds of raw steroid ingredients that originated in China.

In a sign of its new commitment to fight doping globally, Pound said China had responded swiftly to requests from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and other organizations for help preparing the raids. He said China had agreed to share information uncovered in its own investigations with foreign law enforcement bodies.

"They take it seriously, they are in active cooperation with the various international agencies that are involved," Pound said. "It's pretty early in the process to know exactly what all the information may be, but I think they are equally committed to doing something whatever is appropriate if they find there are illegal activities here in China," he said.

Asked if he thought next year's Games would be the cleanest yet, Pound answered: "I think they might be, partially because of what is being done here, partially also as a result of the Athens Games, where at least as far as the Olympic movement is concerned, there was a real line drawn in the sand."

Improved detection technology and a zero-tolerance policy toward doping or irregular behavior of any kind will deter cheats who know they are "going to be caught and disgraced," Pound said.

"All that, I hope, will combine to produce what I hope will be the cleanest games ever," Pound said.

Pound's comments underscored the huge efforts undertaken by the central government to shake a reputation for doping among Chinese athletes dating from the doping scandals of the mid-1990s when several dozen swimmers and other athletes were banned for using performance enhancing drugs.

Problems are believed to remain at the regional level, however. Last year, students at a sports school Liaoning province north of Beijing were caught using performance-enhancing drugs including EPO, steroids and testosterone.

Officials at the school were charged with "collective doping." In 2002, officials at another nearby sports school also were charged with the same offense.

Pound said Chinese officials had pledged that all the nation's athletes would be drug-free for the Olympics, and that "there will be no Chinese athlete on any team that hasn't been tested."

Pound said China's testing agency, the China Anti-Doping Commission, operated independently, boasting first-rate facilities and funding, all of which it owed at least in part to Beijing's determination to host a hugely successful Olympics.

"Of course, they have benefited enormously from the fact that Beijing is the host for 2008," Pound said.

While China has yet to fully execute its new anti-doping regime, "all of us are convinced that the Chinese government wants this to work," he said.

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