Track and field body faulted over doping charges
Maker of substance in question says it's safe, legal
(CNN) -- With allegations of a doping conspiracy threatening to tarnish a number of Olympic athletes, the U.S. Olympic Committee criticized track and field's governing body Friday, saying it has put the "credibility of the sport" at risk.
The reaction comes a day after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said several track and field athletes tested positive for THG, or tetrahydrogestrinone -- a laboratory-created compound made with gestrinone, an anabolic agent on the prohibited substance list.
"We are not satisfied with the action that has been taken to date by them," acting USOC President Bill Martin said of the USA Track & Field leadership.
"This is a problem rooted in both perception and reality, and it is a problem related to doping, athlete conduct, and the credibility of the sport."
If true, the Anti-Doping Agency's charges could weaken the field of athletes competing at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.
USA Track & Field lauded "the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's initiative to identify and pursue possible drug cheats.
"It is vital that we continue to proactively root out cheaters and those individuals who encourage cheating," the organization said in a statement Friday. "This sets a standard for other Olympic and professional sports to follow and helps protect the reputations of the vast majority of track athletes who are not cheating."
Victor Conte, president of the California company that manufactures THG, tells CNN the substance in question is not a controlled substance and is not illegal.
If THG is determined to be a banned substance, athletes who test positive for its use face a mandatory two-year suspension from competition, making them ineligible for the games.
The International Association of Athletics Federations acknowledged Friday that the agency had notified it of the investigation and said that "cases are currently under due process."
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said it also contacted the U.S. Justice Department "because this information pointed to potentially illegal activity by the distributor of a controlled substance.
"What we have uncovered appears to be intentional doping of the worst sort," according to a statement from Terry Madden, the agency's chief executive officer.
"This is a conspiracy involving chemists, coaches and certain athletes using what they developed to be 'undetectable' designer steroids to defraud their fellow competitors and the American and world public who pay to attend sporting events."
The agency identified THG from a syringe provided by a person said to be a high-profile track and field coach.
That person told the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that the steroid was provided by Conte, president of Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative in Burlingame, California, near San Francisco, according to the agency.
In three e-mails to CNN, Conte criticized the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's statements.
He said there is not a "single shred of evidence" to support the notion that the substance produces anabolic effects -- those that promote tissue growth.
He also said his laboratory "is not the source of the substance found as reported by USADA."
"In my opinion, USADA is really making a scientific stretch by suggesting that [the substance] is closely related to an anabolic steroid. Please understand that, in terms of structure, heroin is related to morphine, which is related to codeine, which is related to cough syrup. However, cough syrup does not do what heroin does in terms of effects."
Conte went on to say that "this is about jealous competitive coaches and athletes that all have a history of promoting and using performance-enhancing agents being 'completely hypocritical' in their actions.
"As many will soon find out, the world of track and field is a very dirty business, and this goes far beyond just the coaches and athletes," he said.
New York University professor Dr. Gary Wadler, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency's health, medical and research committee, said Friday that lab tests used to detect steroids likely missed THG "because they did not know it existed.
"Steroids have been around a long time, and athletes and chemists and those who want to cheat have been looking long and hard to try and get around various drug tests," he said. "This seems to be an example of that."
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said the positive results came from testing samples collected at the 2003 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships as well as samples collected out of competition by the agency.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, an independent group that monitors Olympic sports in the United States, has full authority for testing, education, research and adjudication for U.S. Olympic, Pan American Games and Paralympic athletes. It is responsible for developing a comprehensive national anti-doping program for Olympic athletes in the United States.
The World Anti-Doping Agency, though not directly connected to the U.S. agency, serves a similar purpose on the international level.