U.S. Olympic leaders have been accused by their former doping chief of hampering his fight against drugs and denying him promotions and opportunities because he is black.
A 30-page complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Denver by Dr. Wade Exum claims the U.S. Olympic Committee evaded its responsibility to screen and discipline athletes for drugs in its quest to produce medal-winners.
Although no athletes are identified, the lawsuit says Exum knows of competitors who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in the Olympic trials and went on to win medals at the Olympic Games.
Repeating claims he made when he resigned in protest last month, Exum says in the lawsuit that about half the American athletes who have tested positive for prohibited substances have gone unpunished.
USOC chief executive officer Norm Blake criticized the timing of the lawsuit, filed less than two months before the start of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, because it raises “unwarranted allegations” that tarnish the reputation of American athletes.
In a prepared statement, Blake said USOC officials received Exum’s lawsuit Monday afternoon and have not been able to review it in depth yet. But he said Exum’s previous allegations have not been substantiated.
“We will continue to work with our outside counsel to evaluate what possible legal remedy and actions we might take, if any,” Blake said.
In the lawsuit, Exum claims his anti-drug efforts were “willfully and repeatedly undermined” by the committee’s “unwillingness to adopt an anti-doping program that had any real probability of preventing athletic doping and protecting the health and well-being of American athletes.”
The USOC’s real interest is “procuring gold medalists who perform not just superbly, but who realize superhuman achievements,” the suit claims, adding that the USOC “knows that to achieve these superhuman records, doping must occur.”
The suit accuses the USOC of deferring to each sport’s individual governing body on discipline, resulting in punishments that are nonexistent or so light that they encourage drug use.
It says Exum was told to mind his own business when he raised concerns that non-doctors were given keys to what the suit calls “a pharmacopeia” in the USOC’s Sports Medicine Division and allowed to dispense the medicines to athletes.
Exum Claims Discrimination
Exum resigned June 5 after nine years as director of the USOC’s Drug Control Administration, saying he was forced out by racial discrimination, ethical dilemmas, harassment and other factors. One of his eight claims in the suit is wrongful termination.
Exum’s claims of racial discrimination — against the USOC and the United States Anti-Doping Agency — are based on allegations that he was repeatedly passed over for promotions and denied opportunities in favor of whites, and was “subject to hyper scrutiny” because of his race.
Exum also claims he was retaliated against after he tried to eliminate a perceived conflict of interest in drug testing. The suit says the directors of the two labs that have been hired to analyze urine samples for the USOC also sit on the board of its Anti-Doping Committee.
It also claims that Exum was asked to participate in a study that involved testing prohibited substances on athletes “using a protocol amounting to racial profiling,” and was then excluded from participation when he objected to the program.
USOC officials have defended the study, which was funded by the International Olympic Committee and the Australian government and involved athletes at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and the volunteers at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
When Exum made a similar accusation last month, USOC spokesman Mike Moran said the athletes selected were “a cross section of the United States Olympic Team based on gender, race, age and place of residence” and called the racial-profiling claim “reckless and without merit.”
Moran also denied other allegations Exum and his lawyers made last month, saying, “we find it incredible that the individual charged with the direction and success of our own drug program now is criticizing it and challenging its effectiveness.”