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NBA Olympic Players to Get Random Tests

March 5, 2003

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) _ NBA players participating in the 2004 Athens Games will face the same drug testing procedures as other Olympic athletes under a global program endorsed by sports federations and more than 70 national governments Wednesday.

``There will be no differentiation between a team handball athlete and an NBA professional,″ said Terry Madden, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

The code establishes a single list of prohibited substances, ranging from steroids to stimulants to blood-boosting hormones. It also bans any form of genetic doping.

It calls for two-year suspensions for first serious drug violations and life bans for a second. Athletes failing drug tests at the Olympics or other competitions will automatically be disqualified and lose any medals.

The code upholds the Olympics’ ``strict liability″ policy, meaning athletes are responsible for any banned substance in their body regardless of how it got there. Some flexibility is allowed for in in case of unintentional doping violations and exceptional circumstances.

As part of the plan, NBA players would face out-of-competition, random drug tests for the games starting July 1.

Under the system, which applies to athletes in all Olympic sports, drug testers can show up unannounced at a player’s house at any time to ask for a sample.

``It’s not anything I really have to worry about, myself,″ Seattle SuperSonics star Ray Allen said. ``The selection committee just has to consider the guys they pick on the team. They can pick anybody. You want to make sure guys are doing the right thing, especially during the season.″

This is the first time NBA stars will face such comprehensive, pre-Olympic testing.

The NBA and other U.S. professional leagues are not formally covered by the World Anti-Doping code, which sets out uniform drug-testing rules and sanctions across all sports and countries.

Pro leagues are only ``encouraged″ to comply, because they aren’t under the jurisdiction of international sports federations or national governments. But pro athletes wishing to take part in the Olympics are subject to the same pre-games testing as other competitors.

The program is similar to what NHL players faced before the Salt Lake City Olympics.

The NBA players’ union had no comment Tuesday except to say it was reviewing the new policy.

U.S. players had to take random drug tests at training sites in Hawaii and Australia before the 2000 Sydney Olympics. NBA players also were subject to out-of-competition controls before last year’s world championships.

USA Basketball, the national governing body, said this is the first time players will be eligible for testing so far before the games and away from the playing venues.

``It’s something the USOC has encouraged and been pushing for,″ USA Basketball spokesman Craig Miller said. ``It’s a requirement.″

Last month, Allen, Jason Kidd, Tracy McGrady and Tim Duncan were selected to the 12-man team. Kobe Bryant, Mike Bibby and Karl Malone are also expected to join, with the rest of the roster announced in the spring.

The team must finish among the top three in a qualifying tournament in August to earn a trip to Athens.

The U.S. Olympic Committee, the White House Drug Control Policy Office and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency back the new code.

Edward Jurith, general counsel of the White House office, called the code a ``significant step forward″ but said the U.S. government was not in a position to influence the pro leagues.

``We join you in the pursuit of the holy grail _ one code for all leading to the elimination of doping in sport,″ said Paul George, head of the U.S. Olympic Committee delegation.

IOC president Jacques Rogge warned this week that sports and national Olympic committees refusing to comply should be excluded from the Olympics. He said countries which fail to go along should be barred from hosting the games.

He greeted Wednesday’s backing of the code with ``guarded optimism.″

``This is a means to an end,″ Rogge said Wednesday. ``We can’t bask in the glory of this conference. What I am interested in is how to diminish doping. This code is a major tool in that process.″

Sports organizations have until the Athens Olympics to sign the code or face possible expulsion from the games. Governments are to sign a declaration of support before the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

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