ROME, SEPT. 7 -- The international track body suspended nine athletes today for use of illegal substances and disclaimed charges by Carl Lewis of drug use at the world track and field championships by announcing that none of the competitors checked in Rome had failed their tests.
None of those penalized were of world caliber and they were all tested at meets before the world championships, which concluded Sunday. The nine were not allowed to compete in Rome, where just two -- French sprinter Antoine Richard and Australian javelin thrower Sue Howland -- could have made a significant showing.
The suspensions of Richard and Howland, however, had already been announced last week by their national track federations.
The International Amateur Athletic Federation Council announced that Richard, Howland, Frenchmen Eric De Smedt (hammer throw) and Jean-Louise Demarne (shot put), Norway's Lars Arvid Nilsen (shot put) and Romanians Gabriela Mihalcea (high jump) and Miheala Chindae (sprints) had all been suspended for two years, for steroid use.
Three-month bans were levied on Thomas Menne (javelin) of West Germany and Temel Berek (long jump/triple jump) of Turkey for use of the stimulant ephedrine, considered by the IAAF a minor offense.
IAAF President Primo Nebiolo stressed that the federation had tightened its checks on the use of drugs and emphasized that all the athletes tested in Rome had been given a clear bill of health. The tests covered the top four in each event plus a fifth athlete drawn at random.
Lewis, track's most publicized star over the past four years and a winner in Rome of two golds and one silver, said last week that many gold medalists here were using drugs that cannot be detected by present test labs. He mentioned no names.
Nebiolo said IAAF drug experts have been working on the identification of drug concealers and that one substance, probenicid, definitely will be banned effective Jan. 1, 1988.
"We have sophisticated labs and our experts are leaders in this field," Nebiolo said. "There is too much talk about this with no real knowledge of what is going on. Mr. Lewis is responsible for his own statements. If he knows what is going on, he should speak up and name people and substances. Otherwise, all this is very superficial."
Nebiolo said the IAAF rules just approved in Rome paved the way for tests at a much greater number of national and international meets and inside the training havens of the competitors.
Drug experts say athletes can take some drugs, mainly anabolic steroids, for a certain time, and then stop before competition so the drug is eliminated by the body and can no longer be detected at meets. By running tests during training, this would no longer be possible, they say.
Nebiolo was asked why this intense IAAF campaign against drugs if no violations had been detected at the world championships.
"We are determined to discourage the use of drugs at all levels by stepping up our checks and tightening our punishments," he said. "We are pleased all went well at Rome, but we feel part of the credit is because of the expanded testing."