Durban, South Africa , July 09: The IOC will enforce a “no needle” policy for the 2012 London Olympics that bars athletes from possessing syringes and other medical equipment that could be used for doping.
IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist told The Associated Press that needles will be prohibited from living areas, locker rooms and training and competition sites without medical clearance.
“We won't accept medical equipment like syringes and needles in the field of play or non-medical environment,” Ljungqvist said. “It gives a very bad image and a bad message and can relate to misuse of drugs and doping.”
The international cycling, rowing and gymnastics federations already have no-needle policies.
The International Olympic Committee will send the new rules to all 205 national Olympic committees, which will have the responsibility of making sure their teams comply.
Athletes and team doctors will have to apply to the games' chief medical officer to seek authorization for use of needles for medical injections.
“They should only be used in proper medical circumstances,” Ljungqvist said.
In addition to the potential for doping, disposed needles also pose a health risk to house cleaners and other hotel staff, he said.
“If you have needles in waste paper baskets, that's not safe,” he said. “They are not supposed to be there.”
At past Olympics and world championships, cleaners have found needles and syringes in athletes' villages and other living quarters.
“This is too frequent,” Ljungqvist said. “It's too common, too serious.”
After the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, the IOC opened a blood doping investigation after medical equipment was found in a house rented by Austrian athletes.
“The IOC has and other federations have experience of medical equipment, syringes, needles and infusion aggregates being found in dormitories and inappropriate places during and even after the games,” Ljungqvist said at a separate news conference.
“I can refer to the Salt Lake City incident.”
The UCI, cycling's governing body, instituted a “no needle” policy in May that limits when riders can receive injections and prohibits injections of recovery-boosting vitamins, sugars, enzymes and amino acids.
The UCI said its research has suggested that even legitimate use of needles may often put riders on a slippery slope toward doping. Riders can be suspended up to six months and fined $116,000 for a first offense. Teams face exclusion from races if an illegal injection is given.
Ljungqvist said sanctions for the Olympics still need to be finalized, but they would likely be “similar” to the punishments for a doping violation. Doping offenses normally result in expulsion from the games.
The no-needle policy is the latest piece of a rigorous anti-doping program being put into place for the London Games.
Ljungqvist said more than 5,000 drug tests will be conducted, including surprise, out-of-competition urine and blood checks. Increasingly, he said, the testing will be based on intelligence and tipoffs.
The IOC and British anti-doping authorities will share information to stop the import of doping substances into the country and target any doping activity before and during the games.
“We will be working on knowledge of where doping substances may be, with whom and by whom,” Ljungqvist said.
While Britain doesn't have specific anti-doping laws, Ljungqvist said U.K. Anti-Doping is working closely with customs and other authorities.
“So far it seems to satisfy our needs,” he said.
If there is evidence or suspicion of doping networks in operation at the games, the IOC hopes police would go after them.
At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italian police raided the lodgings of the Austrian cross-country and biathlon team and seized blood-doping equipment.
Five athletes were later banned by the IOC for involvement in the scandal, but the Olympic body was powerless without the police action, Ljungqvist said.
“The Torino example is a perfect one and that is what I'd like to see in place when we have an Olympic Games or world championships,” he said.
“They had a criminal law criminalizing the possession of doping substances and doping equipment when we were powerless. The importance of this was so well exposed in Torino.” AP