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Thorpe's Stand Vindicated -- March 1, 2000

Lausanne, Switzerland - World champion Ian Thorpe has won a moral victory after his protest against the security of the drug-testing procedures at the recent Berlin World Cup meet.

The medical officer in charge of the Berlin drug-testing protocol has recommended that the German procedures be upgraded to include the latest tamper-proof technology despite his claim yesterday that Thorpe's concerns were "unjustified". FINA Medical Commission member, Dr. Eide Luebs, said he had advised the FINA board to scrap the traditional test system still used in Germany and insist all countries adopt the newer "Berlinger" system, which uses press-down seals.

"It would be one more step of security," he said. "It's starting to be used in swimming now more and more, and Australia will use it at the Olympics. At the moment we have two systems in parallel."

The Australian and US federations demanded a FINA inquiry into the German drug-testing procedures after Thorpe, American world champion Lenny Krayzelburg and three other swimmers complained that their urine samples were not put in tamper-proof containers at the Berlin meet.

The swimmers refused to hand over their samples until the police were called to seal the containers with forensic tape.

Thorpe was particularly suspicious after a German coach had raised doping allegations against him earlier that week, but Dr. Luebs maintained that the swimmers' reaction was "unjustified". "The atmosphere was a bit heated up," Dr. Luebs said. "They were scared and concerned that someone might tamper with the results. This did not help the situation for doping control. But the swimmers were unjustified."

Dr. Luebs said German officials had used a FINA-approved doping test, using screw-cap containers proven to be tamper-proof.

Dr. Luebs said he had not recommended any disciplinary action against the swimmers because the recent doping accusations gave them "an excuse" to be wary of the test.

Dr. Luebs said Thorpe, who smashed the 200m freestyle record in Berlin, was an "extraordinary" swimmer.

"If somebody would try to tamper and make (his test) positive that would be a tragedy not only for Ian but also for Australian sport, swimming and all Australians," he said.

FINA board members yesterday refused to comment on the outcome of the German inquiry, but FINA has already ratified the world records Thorpe and Krayzelburg set at the Berlin meet.