WASHINGTON – The United States Anti-Doping Agency and Olympic officials asked a U.S. Senate committee for more federal money to eradicate athletes' use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.
The federal government provides nearly 65 percent of USADA's funding,$7.4 million last year. The Senate Committee on Commerce,Science and Transportation considered a bill Tuesday that would allot nearly $52 million over the next five years for research,education,testing and adjudication in Olympic competitions.
“I want to protect younger generations from these substances,” said Sen. John McCain,R-Ariz.,who chaired the hearing.
Terry Madden,USADA's chief executive officer,said he is concerned that U.S. athletes are viewed as the “biggest cheaters in the world” by some countries. He said these accusations are false,but there is still a substantial amount of illegal steroid use that needs to be stopped.
“Doping has,unfortunately,become an issue that affects every sport and threatens to undermine the integrity of athletics as a whole,” Madden said.
USADA,which was established in October 2000,conducted 7,630 drug tests on Olympic athletes last year.
Jim Scherr,chief executive officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee,said more federal funding is needed because the USOC “is reaching the limits of its ability to increase funding of USADA.” His committee provides 30 percent of USADA's funding.
“Performance-enhancing drug use has become a national issue that must be attacked on a federal level,” Scherr said.
Runner Kelli White told the committee she would aid the effort to fight drug use. She lost a chance to compete as a U.S. track and field Olympian last year when she was found to have used performance-enhancing drugs. She forfeited championship medals and is serving a two-year suspension.
“I was continuously being told that the usage of performance-enhancing substances were necessary to be competitive because everyone else was doing so,” White said,explaining that “everyone else” meant fellow athletes,U.S. Olympians who are using steroids but have not been caught.
A major problem with testing is that there are so many substances out there and it is hard to pinpoint which drugs to develop tests for,said Don Catlin,a professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical School.
“Athletes determined to cheat have little trouble beating the tests” because they can easily switch to a different substance once a test is created to detect their current drug,Catlin said.
This leads to the need for added federal funding to hire more scientists and provide equipment to develop more drug-detection tests,Catlin said.
Roger Blake,assistant executive director of the California Interscholastic Federation,said Olympic athletes aren't the only ones using illegal substances and urged USADA to get involved. He said the use of steroids has become an issue for athletes on professional,collegiate,high school and even elementary levels.
He suggested that high school athletes' use of performance enhancers leads to the increased use in college and professional sports.
“We must send a united message that the illegal use of steroids and performance enhancers is cheating and will not be tolerated,” Blake said.