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Swim Officials Worry Over Drug Use

October 21, 1998

BERLIN (AP) _ Claims that swimming is rife with performance-enhancing drugs can’t be summarily dismissed, according to the sport’s top doping official.

Harm Beyer, chairman of the anti-doping commission of FINA, swimming’s world governing body, said there are ``two many hints″ to dismiss claims by two world-class German swimmers.

In a television interview last weekend, Chris-Carol Bremer and Mark Warnecke said drugs such as EPO and testosterone are in heavy use.

The accusations were denied by other swimmers, who said they never saw banned substances in locker rooms or on pool decks. But Beyer is more wary.

``I wouldn’t have said it like that since there is no proof, but when you go through the swimming pools at the competitions, there are too many hints that something is going on,″ Beyer told The Associated Press.

``It’s just a feeling I have, but you hear deep voices, you see acne and you see sudden improvements in times. This is an indication that something is used to improve the performance of swimmers,″ added Beyer, a former president of the German Swim Federation.

Appearing in Germany’s ARD Television on Sunday, Bremer and Warnecke said banned substances were being systematically used.

``You’ll find testosterone and EPO in the pockets of swimmers everywhere in the world,″ said Warnecke, an Olympic bronze medalist. ``With the help of a good sports doctor, you can regulate it so that someone is doped the entire year. When it’s done right, it can’t be detected at any testing.″

Bremer, a bronze medalist at the 1994 world championships, agreed.

``It’s no secret that one can get around doping controls without any problem,″ Bremer said. ``It’s possible to swallow a pill at night and mornings, when the controller comes, there’s nothing that can be proved. All that’s picked up are the mistakes.″

Both the German Sports Federation and German Swim Federation said they will question the two swimmers this week.

But some of their teammates, in an interview with the Berlin daily B.Z., scoffed at the accusations.

``Those two are crazy,″ said Ralf Braun, a silver medalist at last year’s world championships.

``They’re smearing the reputation of the entire team,″ said Steffen Zesner, a member of Germany’s 1996 Olympic team. ``I’ve never seen pills in a swim hall. I’ve also never seen someone handed tablets.″

EPO, or erythropoietin, is a banned drug that boosts oxygen absorption in the bloodstream that was at the center of the drug scandal in this year’s Tour de France. Testosterone is a male sex hormone also used by athletes to boost performance.

Tests to detect EPO are still in the experimental stage, while the analysis for testosterone has been widely criticized as inaccurate.

Wilhelm Schaenzer, head of the Olympic drug lab in Cologne, said he wasn’t surprised at the remarks by the two swimmers.

``We’ve assumed for several years that at the top sports levels, doping with testosterone takes place,″ Schaenzer said in a television interview. ``But it’s not just swimming. Other sports are also affected.″

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