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U.S. Coach: Swimmers Not Drug-Free
By BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) American coach Richard Quick believes some Olympic swimmers are using drugs, and he criticized the quality and frequency of testing.
»I'm not pointing any fingers at anyone or any nation, but it's definitely not drug-free,« he said Wednesday. »The IOC should make that the No. 1 priority.«
Quick, the U.S. women's coach, has been a vocal critic of the quality of drug testing in international swimming. Asked if he had proof of cheating, Quick said he was relying on his intuition.
»Look at the depth in many of the fields. A lot of great athletes are not in the finals and are not medaling,« he said. »I'm sorry that our sport has a cloud over these type of performances.«
IOC officials said Quick's allegations were misguided.
»It's always easy to point fingers at others,« IOC executive board member Thomas Bach of Germany said. »The worst thing is putting clean athletes under suspicion. Everybody would be well advised to stop pointing fingers. It's not fair play.«
Jacques Rogge, vice chairman of the IOC medical commission, said the Sydney Games (news web sites) were covered by the biggest anti-drug program in sports history, with more than 3,200 athletes tested, including every medalist.
»Of course we can always do more, but checking all 10,000 athletes is technically and financially impossible,« Rogge said. »It's a matter of capacity. The Sydney lab is working around the clock in three shifts. It costs an absolute fortune.«
These days, suspicions about performance-enhancing drugs surround any swimmer who suddenly begins shattering records or winning gold medals.
Questions have been asked about Inge de Bruijn of the Netherlands, who has made a rapid rise at age 27 relatively late by the sport's standards. She spent much of the last decade being good but never great.
In Sydney, De Bruijn has won gold with a world record in the 100-meter butterfly and a relay silver. She's the favorite to win the 100 freestyle Thursday, having set a world record in the semifinals.
»I had a really rough time with the accusations,« she said. »If you get a world record, they just want to chop your head off. Right now, I'm really just above those accusations. I've got the gold medal.«
Quick said he doesn't think De Bruijn is cheating.
Another Dutch swimmer, Pieter van den Hoogenband, is having a sensational Olympics four years after two fourth-place finishes in Atlanta.
Van den Hoogenband became the first man to sweep the 100 and 200 freestyles since American Mark Spitz in 1972. He tied his own world record in the 100 freestyle.
»You can't accuse someone of taking drugs just because they swim fast,« said American Gary Hall Jr., who was third to van den Hoogenband in the 100 freestyle.
American Dara Torres (news web sites), making a comeback at 33 after being retired from swimming for seven years, had to address questions about drugs when she qualified for her record fourth U.S. Olympic swim team. She's won a relay gold and an individual bronze in Sydney.
Torres said her success is the result of staying fit in retirement and nutritional supplements.
Quick said it's harder to detect cheaters now compared with the 1970s, when swimmers from the former East Germany were breaking world records and winning world and Olympic titles, or even the early '90s, when China suddenly dominated.
Both countries' accomplishments were later tainted by revelations of performance-enhancing drugs.
Quick cited American Jenny Thompson (news web sites)'s loss to Zhuang Yong of China in the 100 freestyle at the Barcelona Olympics. Thompson has yet to win an individual Olympic gold, though she has seven in relays.
»I know she was cheated in '92 out of a gold medal by a cheater,« said Quick, the personal coach of Torres and Thompson. »Isn't that too bad that happened to her?«
Thirty-two Chinese swimmers were caught for drug offenses in the 1990s, according to »Swimming's Hall of Shame,« a history of doping offenses by Brent Rushall, a sports scientist at San Diego State University.
But Zhuang was not among them.
So far, China had yet to win a medal in Sydney after its women captured six at the 1996 Olympics.
»I don't see that in any one nation anymore. I see possibilities on an individual basis,« Quick said. »But it's hard for me to say that one person is using performance-enhancing drugs and one person is not.«
Quick said he's »very, very sad« about the state of drug testing in Olympic sports.
»I'm sorry there's a cloud over our sport when we should be celebrating,« he said. »I want the IOC to take responsibility for an absolutely fair competition.«