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Olympics Adopts Anti-Doping Rules

March 7, 2003

NBA players on the U.S. Olympic team shouldn’t expect a 4 a.m. knock on the door for random drug tests, but they must be careful about ingesting banned substances _ even those in soft drinks.

``Coke, Pepsi, coffee and other commonplace foods containing caffeine could result in a positive test if they are ingested in large enough quantities,″ reads a letter sent to all members of the U.S. men’s basketball team.

Rules adopted earlier this week at an international anti-doping conference in Copenhagen call for the disqualification of any team that has two anti-doping violations during the Olympics. Caffeine is one of many banned substances, with a content of 12 or more micrograms per milliliter constituting a doping violation.

The NBA players’ union has expressed concern with the scope of the testing, although a spokesman for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Friday that some of those concerns were unfounded.

Under rules covering out-of-competition testing, players technically will be subject to random testing at any time and any place.

``Most of the time we’re going to work with their schedules, and we’re not going to knock on doors at 4 a.m.,″ USADA spokesman Rich Wanninger said. ``The possibility is there, but it probably won’t happen. We’re not there to cause an annoyance to an athlete by disrupting his schedule.″

The new policies are similar to those employed last year when the United States sent a team to the World Championships. Although that tournament did not begin until August, some American players were tested as early as April.

Prior to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, U.S. team members submitted to out-of-competition drug tests during their training camp in Hawaii and their pre-Olympic trip to Melbourne, Australia.

The four players who have already been named to the U.S. team _ Tim Duncan, Jason Kidd, Ray Allen and Tracy McGrady _ will be eligible for random testing next month when the USADA pools a list of all eligible athletes and randomly selects several for testing.

Three other players _ Kobe Bryant, Mike Bibby and Karl Malone _ also will be eligible for out-of-competition testing if they are named to the U.S. team before April 1.

The USADA conducted 5,697 drug tests in 2002, including 2,377 in which there was no random notice, Wanninger said.

The out-of-competition tests include screening for anabolic agents, diuretics, peptide hormones, human growth hormone, blood doping and genetic doping, whereas testing at events includes additional screening for drugs including ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and narcotics.

The World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances is much more comprehensive than the list agreed to by the NBA and the players’ union, and Olympic athletes have been notified by USA Basketball that they need to be extra careful regarding what they ingest

The USADA maintains a hotline that athletes can call to speak to a pharmacist to learn whether any over-the-counter medicine or nutritional supplement contains a banned substance.

The amount of caffeine that would need to be ingested to produce a positive doping test varies from person to person according to their size and metabolism. In any case, there will be no caffeine testing until the competition begins in Athens in the summer of 2004.

``You would have to drink an awful lot for that to come up in a test, and that wouldn’t come up on an out-of-competition test anyway,″ Wanninger said.

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