WADA: More than 30 will not compete

Updated: February 11, 2010, 11:46 PM ET
By Bonnie D. Ford | ESPN.com

VANCOUVER -- More than 30 athletes have been prevented from competing at the Olympic Winter Games for a variety of anti-doping violations, but their names, nationalities and the sports they compete in have not yet been released by their countries' anti-doping authorities.

United States Olympic Committee spokesman Bob Condron said no American athletes were among the 30-plus cases. The USOC would have been informed if any Team USA members were going to be prevented from entering Canada, he said.

The athletes were subjected to pre-Olympics testing in the weeks and months leading up to the Games. Pending cases were reported to the World Anti-Doping Agency, which passed them on to the International Olympic Committee. Violations could include positive tests for banned substances or failure to comply with the whereabouts system, in which athletes must make themselves available for at least an hour a day to facilitate unannounced tests.

WADA officials confirmed they had been informed of the results. But regulations dictate that only national entities -- sports governing bodies and anti-doping agencies -- with jurisdiction over the athletes involved have control over releasing results and status of cases.

"We never comment on any cases until all avenues of appeal have been exhausted," said WADA chief John Fahey. "To do so is outside our charter and it's not in the interests of fair play ... We didn't do it before Beijing [when more than 70 athletes were snagged in pre-Olympic testing] and we never will."

There's no indication when any of the cases might become public. But it's likely that the testing targeted athletes in endurance sports such as cross-country skiing, biathlon and long-track speedskating, where there is a history of blood doping and EPO use to enhance oxygen processing. Several female Nordic skiers from Russia were suspended recently for positive tests and it is possible some or all of them are being counted in the numbers released here in the last 24 hours.

Anti-doping authorities in recent years have shifted their approach from a totally random sweep to a more refined process that takes aim at what they perceive as higher-risk athletes and sports.

The only certainty, Fahey said, is that athletes who cheat are more likely to be caught "than in any other Games in our history."

Appearing with the WADA officials was Scott Burns, former deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Policy under President George W. Bush. Burns will head up the team of WADA observers who monitor drug testing procedures during the Vancouver Games. Also on the team is attorney Rich Young, who has prosecuted a number of high-profile U.S. athletes charged with doping violations by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

That team makes no public statements during the Games and issues a report with recommendations on changes or improvements afterward.

WADA Director General David Howman was pelted with questions about drug testing of the National Hockey League players participating in the Olympics.

NHL players normally do not fall under the WADA code and are covered by a testing system negotiated in their collective bargaining agreement. But the union agreed to an exception that allows players nominated for Olympic teams to be subject to the WADA code, starting last Oct. 15.

WADA officials have long criticized weak anti-doping programs in the North American professional sports leagues, and Thursday, Howman made no bones about his dissatisfaction with the state of testing in the NHL.

"It's not as stringent as you would want," he said. "We don't know if there's a [doping] problem, but you're left with the suspicion that there may be problem if you're not prepared to front up."

Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com.

Bonnie D. Ford covers Olympic sports for ESPN.com.