USOC Shelves Expanded Drug Tests

A plan to test for recreational drug use among athletes at U.S. Olympic Committee training centers was shelved Sunday when officials said it needed more study.

Also stripped from a revision of the committee’s drug-test rules was a proposal to tighten security around urine samples.

Earlier this year, the USOC started unannounced, random drug tests of residents at training centers in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Chula Vista, Calif.; Lake Placid, N.Y.; and Marquette, Mich.

Aimed specifically at performance-enhancing drugs, the action followed disclosures that members of the junior national weightlifting team had used banned strength-building supplements while living in the Colorado Springs dorms.

The addition of recreational drugs such as marijuana and cocaine to the tests would have formalized anti-doping efforts the USOC now takes only when specifically asked by member sports bodies.

It would have eliminated the type of loophole that embarrassed the International Olympic Committee at last February’s Winter Games, when an arbitration panel reinstated the gold medal of Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati on the grounds that his positive test for marijuana had not been covered in pre-Games rules.

But Baaron Pittenger, a former USOC executive director and chairman of the panel’s national anti-doping committee, agreed to pull the test package after members of the athletes’ advisory commission argued that it needed more study.

Pittenger told the USOC’s board of directors in Phoenix, Ariz., that he originally had viewed the broader test provisions merely as “housekeeping items” that are routinely added without much debate, but added that further review could be useful. He said the issue of recreational-drug testing could come up again after the review was complete.

The USOC is due to hear next April from a task force investigating how to place all drug testing of America’s Olympic-level athletes in the hands of an independent agency.

The USOC is one of the few national Olympic groups that conducts its own drug tests. Executive director Dick Schultz and other officials have said repeatedly that it was important to set up an independent drug-testing agency to guarantee fairness and promote trust.