US athletes throw down the gauntlet

GREENSBORO (North Carolina): American athletes unanimously backed lifetime bans for steroid offenders here on Friday – then challenged the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to adopt the policy. 

“We just decided to raise the standard and tell the world to stop pointing finger at us – don’t even think about it,” US sprinter Jon Drummond said. 

USA Track and Field’s athlete advisory committee backed the “Zero Tolerance” measure and the career-ending steroid punishment will be voted upon here today by the full membership at the governing body’s 25th annual convention. 

Discovery of the designer steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) last October and positive THG tests by US athletes Regina Jacobs, Kevin Toth, John McEwan and an unidentified fourth spurred adoption of a career-ending steroid penalty. 

“The US is going to be the first to do it. We challenge the rest of the world to do it,” 1996 Olympic and four-time world 110m hurdles champion Allen Johnson said. 

“We especially challenge the IAAF. They point fingers, say we don’t do enough on drugs. Now we’re the toughest in the world. Now who wants to follow? Everybody talks about it. We’re doing it.” 

Top US athletes said they expect the IAAF to adopt lifetime steroid bans. 

“I think they will. They have to follow it,” Johnson said. 

“We’re hoping. We’re positive. We’re optimistic they will,” said high jumper Tisha Waller. 

“It sends a strong message,” retired triple jumper Mike Conley said. “They want the world to be on the same page with this.” 

Pole vaulter Stacy Dragila said the challenge, also unanimously approved, sends a message to those who ridicule US athletes as dope cheats – “It’s back on you.” 

“Everyone has criticised us thinking we’re covering up for athletes,” Dragila said. “It’s a matter of getting the IAAF to follow. For us to be the first, it’s only going to be a matter of them following or looking stupid.” – AFP 

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