White House national drug policy director Barry R. McCaffrey said yesterday his eight-month-old proposal to establish a year-round, independent, international drug testing agency for Olympic athletes has stalled, in part because it has not received the full backing of the International Olympic Committee.
"We don't see action," McCaffrey said at a Washington hotel, after discussing drug-related issues with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, whose nation will host the 2000 Summer Olympics. ". . . It seems to many of us that [the proposal has] stalled. We've lost our momentum."
With the Sydney Olympics scheduled to begin in 15 months, McCaffrey said "the clock is ticking" toward a point where no credible, independent drug testing program could be implemented for the event.
And McCaffrey pointed to IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch as one reason for the lack of progress.
"At the end of the day, the organization reflects the leadership energy behind it," he said. "The IOC must take action. This is a huge problem threatening the global athletic competition system. They've got to act. It clearly is a [question for] the IOC: Are they going to lead? Or are they going to be pushed?
McCaffrey, in an interview, held out hope that individual countries, the European Union and international sports federations will back a new, aggressive drug testing plan. He said he plans to meet with government officials from Australia and EU member countries this fall. McCaffrey discussed the issue in Washington yesterday with British sports minister Tony Banks.
Last November, McCaffrey proposed the development of an Olympic anti-drug agency that would test athletes for banned substances year-round. In February, he led a U.S. government delegation to an IOC summit on doping and sports in Lausanne, Switzerland. "The Olympic anti-drug and doping program should be operative 365 days of every year and should be overseen by a separately established drug testing and oversight agency," he said at the time.
At the summit, McCaffrey helped develop objectives -- endorsed by IOC members -- that included an independent drug testing commission.
But five months later, no commission has been established.
"The issue is being talked about," McCaffrey said. ". . . The European Union has some good ideas they're floating. . . . What we're doing is listening very carefully to the U.S. Olympic Committee and their thinking. The EU, the Canadians and the Australians have all been very energetic in this approach.
"But I do think there's a grave danger of loss of momentum, and I don't think there is going to be a credible drug-testing regime unless it's independent to the IOC and unless it has access to the world's athletes 365 days a year."