By Phillip Whitten
October 20. THE newly-created World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is ready to investigate reports that five Italian gold medalists at the Sydney Olympics—including swimmer Massi Rosolino–registered extraordinarily high levels of human growth hormone (hGH) in blood tests conducted last June by the Italian Olympic Committee’s medical commission. Human growth hormone is on the IOC’s and FINA’s list of illegal performance-enhancing substances.
Rosolino, who won a gold, silver and bronze medal in Sydney, registered an hGH level approximately 17 times higher than normal.
In the 200 IM he won gold in Olympic record time, edging the USA’s Tom Dolan and Tom Wilkins. In the 400 free, he was the silver medalist with a European record and the second fastest time in history. The USA’s Klete Keller was third. In the 200 free, he finished third, just a touch ahead of the USA’s Josh Davis. If Rosolino’s results are invalidated, these four American swimmers would all move up one place.
Canadian officials have asked WADA to look into the allegations, and determine whether the athletes committed doping violations and should be sanctioned. Under FINA rules, hGH use carries a mandatory 4-year suspension from the sport and a disqualification of all results dating back six months.
Harri Syvashalmi, WADA’s secretary general, said yesterday he expects the agency will ask Italian authorities for an explanation and offer to carry out an independent inquiry. "It’s natural and logical that (WADA) should have more information on (the high levels of hGH registered by Rosolino and other Italian Olympians). It’s our job. It’s our duty."
The agency may face a problem with Italian authorities. The Italian Olympic Committee called the doping claims "morally irresponsible." Rosolino has denied any wrongdoing and threatened to sue his detractors.
Dale Neuburger, president of USA Swimming and one of five vice presidents of FINA, said he wants to wait until the end of the day (Friday) before deciding on what to do. "The USOC is meeting today and I feel USA Swimming should act in concert with any action the USOC decides to take." He did not comment on any action FINA might take.
Neuburger pointed out the difficulty in establishing guilt in cases of hGH doping, noting that "there is no benchmarking (of the normal range of hGH) involving large numbers of people" for the hormone, thus making it difficult to prove that the high hGH levels could not have occurred naturally.