Carl Lewis a drug cheat? Documents suggest cover-up

April 19 2003

Carl Lewis, left, runs second but wins gold in the 1988 Olympics 100.

Documents purporting to show that a number of American athletes, including Carl Lewis, were allowed to compete in the Olympics after failing drug tests prove suspicions of US drug cover-ups, says the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Dr Wade Exum, the former USOC director for drug control from 1991 to 2000, released more than 30,000 pages of documents to Sports Illustrated and the Orange County Register. He said they showed that athletes such as Lewis and Mary Joe Fernandez tested positive but were allowed by the US Olympic Committee to compete anyway.

WADA head Dick Pound said the documents reinforced what some critics believed all along. “It’s what many people suspected about the US Olympic Committee, that it was being covered up,” he said in a telephone interview from Montreal on Wednesday. “There were lots of rumours around.”

The USOC called Exum’s accusations baseless. In October 2000, the USOC handed over drug-testing responsibilities to a new organisation, the US Anti-Doping Agency. “I find it ironic that Dr Exum was actually running the program he claims was so flawed,” USOC vice-president Frank Marshall said.

“When USADA was created three years ago, he was out of a job. It is now considered one of the best anti-doping programs in the world, so what’s his point?”

Exum claimed more than 100 positive drug tests for US athletes who won 19 Olympic medals from 1988-2000, but many of them were allowed to compete.

Exum said Lewis was among them, testing positive three times for small amounts of banned stimulants found in cold medications at the 1988 Olympic trials. The USOC first disqualified him, then accepted his appeal on the basis of inadvertent use. Lewis went on to win gold at Seoul in the long jump – and in the 100 metres after Ben Johnson himself was disqualified for using steroids.

Pound dismissed the claims of “inadvertent” drug use. “At the time this happened, Carl Lewis already had four gold medals from the Olympics,” he said. “You know perfectly well you’ve got to be very careful what you take. The offence is the presence of the substance in your body.”

Pound also criticised USA Track and Field for its record on performance-enhancing drugs, and said he would like to get all the details from the files. “The more we know, the better it is,” Pound said. “The more the world knows and the US public knows what the USOC was doing, the more likely they are to fix the problem.”

Exum had planned to use the documents in his racial discrimination and wrongful termination suit against the USOC, but the case was dismissed in federal court last week because of a lack of evidence. “I never wanted to out athletes,” Exum told Sports Illustrated in its April 21 issue. “I never wanted to name names. Can these names help settle the issue and change the system? We’ll see.”

Lewis, winner of nine Olympic gold medals and an outspoken critic of doping, could not be reached for comment. But his long-time manager, Joe Douglas, told the magazine that Lewis had not taken anything to enhance his performance.

The documents show that Joe DeLoach, Lewis’s training partner, tested positive for the same three stimulants as Lewis and was also let off. He won the 200 metres gold in Seoul.

It shows Andre Phillips tested positive for pseudoephedrine at the ’88 trials, was cleared on appeal and won the 400 metres hurdles at the Games. It also shows Fernandez tested positive for pseudoephedrine at a professional event in Miami early in 1992, but she said it was due to a cold medicine.

She said she passed two drug tests during the Olympics and another after winning gold and bronze medals. “I’m obviously disappointed that a story like that would come out without any truth to it,” Fernandez said. “I think the doctor is bitter and is lashing out now because he didn’t win his case.

“I’ve always tried to live an upright and moral life and for something to come out that’s not true is disappointing.”

Pound pointed out letters purportedly written by then-USOC executive director Baaron Pittenger, advising Lewis, DeLoach and Phillips they had tested positive but were being cleared to compete in Seoul.

“It’s got to be pretty embarrassing to the USOC to have their secretary-general writing in the letter where he advises an athlete of a positive A sample, ‘I have to send you this, but we already decided this was inadvertent,’ ” Pound said.

“That whole process turned into a joke.”

– AP

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