USA Track and Field officials mull harsher action after THG scandal

GREENSBORO (North Carolina): USA Track and Field officials will consider tougher penalties for doping positives, including a lifetime ban for steroid users, at the group's 25th annual meetings here starting today. 

The gathering comes in the wake of USA Track and Field chief executive Craig Masback's October call for a “Zero Tolerance” anti-doping punishment plan in the wake of the scandal over the “designer steroid” tetrahydrogestrinone (THG). 

“It's something we will strongly urge our organization to adopt,” Masback said. “We want to send the message that if you cheat, your career is over.”  

But that tough talk from six weeks ago, which eased pressure from the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) about possible decertification of USA Track and Field as a governing body, might not produce results as fast as expected. 

A meeting agenda on the US governing body's web site indicated USA Track and Field president Bill Roe intends to table a motion on tougher doping penalties for lack of answers to key questions, including if USA Track penalties can be tougher than those of the global governing body. 

That body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, punishes anabolic steroid doping cases with two-year international bans. 

“USA Track and Field and our entire sport are under a cloud of suspicion,” Roe said in October. “We look at this as an opportunity to move anti-doping levels to those unmatched in the sport.” 

Given the doping devastation inflicted upon US athletes since October's revelation of previously undetectable THG, there will be pressure upon USA Track officials to do something meaningful in terms of punishing dopers. 

Four THG positives found in US athletes from out-of-competition tests and June's US championships. 

British sprinter Dwain Chambers and three Americans – runner Regina Jacobs, hammer thrower John McEwen and shot putter Kevin Toth – have been identified as testing positive for THG with a fourth positive athlete not yet known publicly. 

“Athletes were strongly behind the generation of this program,” Masback said. “They can no longer allow the handful of athletes who cheat to ruin their reputations.” 

USOC officials formed an advisory panel to work with US Track on anti-doping measures, with USOC chief executive Jim Scheer saying at the time that “the integrity of Track and Field in America is at stake.” 

US marathoner Deena Drossin Kastor has been among the most outspoken critics of doping positives. She bested Jacobs and Kelli White, a double world champion sprinter who tested positive for modafinil, to be named the top US women's athlete of 2003. 

“Any time there is fame and money involved in any profession, you will see a certain type of person cheat to get there,” Drossin said. – AFP  

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