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IOC Doping Summit Struggles

February 4, 1999

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) _ The International Olympic Committee moved to end a drug summit with a semblance of unity by trying to paper over three days of discord with a revised doping policy.

Weakened by the biggest scandal in Olympic history, the IOC could not prevent its plans for an international doping agency from slipping from its grasp.

It also failed to rally the soccer and cycling federation from establishing mandatory two-year sanctions for major drug abusers, and was expected to allow a major loophole for lesser sanctions by the time the conference ends.

All that left the IOC scrambling to come up with an acceptable compromise final statement for the 600 delegates.

``We are working through the night on a draft declaration,″ IOC Vice President Dick Pound said.

To make matters worse, the IOC leadership now also has to deal with a revolt of rank-and-file members who object to proposed reforms to approve Olympic host cities.

``In Canada and indeed throughout the world, there is a high degree of cynicism, a high degree of skepticism and a high degree of mistrust in the IOC as an organization,″ Renn Crichlow, a former world champion kayaker from Canada told the doping summit.

``When we have criticized we have done so as friends, and friends tell you the truth,″ British sports minister Tony Banks said, adding the IOC should not get a chance to lead the $25 million doping agency.

With friends like this, IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch might have been happy his enemies stayed away.

But the biggest challenge to Samaranch’s eroding power came across town as 42 IOC members, many of whom he backed to join the exclusive club, opposed plans for overhauling the process for electing Olympic host cities.

``The voice of the members is very, very loud,″ Italian IOC member Mario Pescante. He said an ``overwhelming majority″ of 42 members came out against plans to strip the general assembly of voting rights in the 2006 Winter Games election.

``If we have some bad apples, they should be thrown out, but don’t tell us the whole general assembly is corrupt,″ Pescante said.

``It’s like taking the candy away from the bad boy _ you won’t get the vote any more,″ U.S. member Jim Easton said.

The sanctions issue also turned the members of the Olympic family against one another. Athletes demanded a tougher stance, while soccer and cycling wanted to make sure any sanctions would be acceptable to the courts.

``If international federations, national federations and national Olympic committees run scared of lawyers they are failing the majority of our athletes,″ said Britain’s Princess Anne, an IOC member.

Despite such calls for tougher sanctions across all sports, the conference moved to allow federations to impose shorter penalties in ``exceptional circumstances″ for fear of being overruled by civil courts.

The creation of the international doping agency was held up by continued wrangling between governments and the IOC over who should control the body.

Speaking on behalf of the 15-member European Union, Banks rejected the proposal giving the IOC a leading role in the agency. Banks called for urgent consultations between both sides to find a compromise.

Donald Vereen, deputy director of the White House drug control office, said: ``An independent organization is required _ and independence means just that, independence.″

Pound said the IOC was ready to give governments a 50-percent role in the agency _ and would expect the governments to contribute financially.

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