IOC adopts ‘no needles’ policy for London Games

The IOC will enforce a ”no needle” policy for the 2012 London

Olympics that bars athletes from possessing syringes and other

medical equipment that could be used for doping.

IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist told The

Associated Press that needles will be prohibited from living areas,

locker rooms and training and competition sites without medical

clearance.

”We won’t accept medical equipment like syringes and needles in

the field of play or non-medical environment,” Ljungqvist said.

”It gives a very bad image and a bad message and can relate to

misuse of drugs and doping.”

The international cycling, rowing and gymnastics federations

already have no-needle policies.

The International Olympic Committee will send the new rules to

all 205 national Olympic committees, which will have the

responsibility of making sure their teams comply.

Athletes and team doctors will have to apply to the games’ chief

medical officer to seek authorization for use of needles for

medical injections.

”They should only be used in proper medical circumstances,”

Ljungqvist said.

The no-needle policy is the latest piece of a rigorous

anti-doping program being put into place for the London Games. He

said more than 5,000 drug tests will be conducted, including

surprise, out-of-competition urine and blood checks.

Increasingly, the testing will be based on intelligence and

tipoffs, Ljungqvist said.

In addition to the potential for doping, disposed needles also

pose a health risk to house cleaners and other hotel staff, he

said.

”If you have needles in waste paper baskets, that’s not safe,”

he said. ”They are not supposed to be there.”

At past Olympics and world championships, cleaners have found

needles and syringes in athletes’ villages and other living

quarters.

”This is too frequent,” Ljungqvist said. ”It’s too common,

too serious.”

After the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, the IOC opened a

blood doping investigation after medical equipment was found in a

house rented by Austrian athletes.

”The IOC has and other federations have experience of medical

equipment, syringes, needles and infusion aggregates being found in

dormitories and inappropriate places during and even after the

games,” Ljungqvist said at a separate news conference. ”I can

refer to the Salt Lake City incident.”

The UCI, cycling’s governing body, instituted a ”no needle”

policy in May that limits when riders can receive injections and

prohibits injections of recovery-boosting vitamins, sugars, enzymes

and amino acids.

The UCI said its research has suggested that even legitimate use

of needles may often put riders on a slippery slope toward doping.

Riders can be suspended up to six months and fined $116,000 for a

first offense. Teams face exclusion from races if an illegal

injection is given.

Ljungqvist said sanctions for the Olympics still need to be

finalized, but they would likely be ”similar” to the punishments

for a doping violation. Doping offenses normally result in

expulsion from the games.

The IOC and British anti-doping authorities will share

information to stop the import of doping substances into the

country and target any doping activity before and during the

games.

”We will be working on knowledge of where doping substances may

be, with whom and by whom,” Ljungqvist said.

While Britain doesn’t have specific anti-doping laws, Ljungqvist

said U.K. Anti-Doping is working closely with customs and other

authorities.

”So far it seems to satisfy our needs,” he said.

If there is evidence or suspicion of doping networks in

operation at the games, the IOC hopes police would go after

them.

At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italian police raided the

lodgings of the Austrian cross-country and biathlon team and seized

blood-doping equipment. Five athletes were later banned by the IOC

for involvement in the scandal, but the Olympic body was powerless

without the police action, Ljungqvist said.

”The Torino example is a perfect one and that is what I’d like

to see in place when we have an Olympic Games or world

championships,” he said.

”They had a criminal law criminalizing the possession of doping

substances and doping equipment when we were powerless. The

importance of this was so well exposed in Torino.”

AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray contributed to this report.