Early in the summer, USADA received a call from a person represented to be a high-profile track and field coach, who provided the names of U.S. and international athletes who he said were using an “undetectable” steroid. The coach subsequently sent USADA a used syringe containing some of this substance. USADA sent the contents of the syringe to the International Olympic Committee accredited anti-doping laboratory at UCLA. Dr. Don Catlin, the head of the laboratory, was able to identify the contents of the syringe and it did contain a designer steroid, which would not have been detectable in normal laboratory testing. UCLA has since developed a test to detect this steroid in athlete urine samples. The steroid, tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), is a designer steroid with a chemical structure similar to other prohibited steroids. In the last few days, several positive ‘A’ sample results for the steroid THG have now been reported to USADA. These results have come from samples collected in-competition at the 2003 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships and samples collected out-of-competition by USADA. The athletes, USA Track and Field, the national governing body for the sport in the United States, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) have all been notified of the positive ‘A’ sample results.
The track and field coach who provided the syringe to USADA identified the source of the “undetectable” steroid as Victor Conte of BALCO (Bay Area Laboratories Co-Operative) Laboratory in Burlingame, Calif. Because this information pointed to potentially illegal activity by the distributor of a controlled substance, USADA contacted the United States Department of Justice.
“What we have uncovered appears to be intentional doping of the worst sort,” said USADA Chief Executive Officer Terry Madden. “This is a far cry from athletes accidentally testing positive as a result of taking contaminated nutritional supplements. Rather, this is a conspiracy involving chemists, coaches and certain athletes using what they developed to be “undetectable” designer steroids to defraud their fellow competitors and the American and world public who pay to attend sports events.”
The fact that a track and field coach came to USADA with this information demonstrates the confidence that the sporting community has in USADA to deter doping in sport. The scientific expertise of the UCLA Laboratory was critical to rapidly identifying and developing a method for the detection of THG in urine samples. The USOC is to be highly commended for its cooperation.
As the anti-doping agency for the Olympic Movement in the United States since October 2000, the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) mission is to fight doping to (1) protect the health of athletes, (2) create a level drug-free playing field, and (3) preserve the true spirit of sport. USADA is a non-governmental, nonprofit agency independent of the control of any sporting body. Its activities are open and transparent.
To stay ahead of the cheaters, USADA is involved in gathering information on how athletes might be using drugs to cheat and in identifying drugs which the cheaters may think are undetectable. USADA has always strongly encouraged athletes and coaches to come forward to USADA on a confidential basis.
USADA’s mission is to fight doping through drug testing, research and education. USADA conducts nearly 6,500 drug tests on top-level athletes annually. These tests take place both in-competition and out-of-competition without notice at the athletes’ training sites and homes. In the area of education, last year USADA made anti-doping presentations to nearly 2,000 athletes. USADA’s anti-doping educational materials are available on the USADA website (www.usantidoping.org). In the last two years, USADA has awarded more than $3 million in grants for anti-doping research, which is more than any other anti-doping agency in the world. USADA’s research program is focused on those doping substances which are difficult to detect and identifying new doping substances which athletes are using to cheat.