Drug Testing in 1984

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

The U.S. Olympic Committee conducted an informal drug testing program in the months leading up to the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles Games that allowed Olympic-caliber athletes testing positive for banned substances to escape sanctions:

At least 34 U.S. track and field athletes either tested positive or had possible positive tests during six weeks of informal testing by USOC in the spring of 1984, according to confidential USOC memos. None of the athletes was sanctioned or lost eligibility, according to USOC documents and interviews.

Athletes were informed of their positive tests and told continued use of banned drugs could result in positive tests at the U.S. Olympic Trials and Olympic Games, where violations would lead to bans from competition.
“It gave them a heads up,” said Ollan Cassell, executive director of U.S. track and field’s governing body from 1980 to 1997. “It let them know what was coming, what to expect.”


“It’s not fair, it’s not right,” Dr. Irving Dardik, in 1984 the chairman of USOC sports medicine council, said of the informal testing program. “If an athlete tested positive, they should have been penalized.”

Dardik said he hand delivered his report to Robert H. Helmick shortly after Helmick took over as USOC president in early 1985. Three weeks later, Dardik asked Helmick about the report.

“Helmick said ‘What report?’ ” Dardik recalled. “It was clear you were not to make any waves that could in anyway implicate the internal workings of (U.S. track’s governing body) or the USOC.”

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