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IOC Official Says Bromantan Produced by Russian Army

July 31, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ Bromantan, the drug that has produced at least four positive tests at the Atlanta Games, is manufactured by the Russian army and has been abused for years by athletes of the former Soviet Union, according to a top Olympic official.

Prince Alexandre de Merode, chairman of the IOC medical commission, said Russian officials told him that Soviet athletes already were using bromantan at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

Traces of the drug were detected in as many as 20 tests in the past two years, all involving athletes from the former Soviet Union and mostly in track and field, de Merode said.

But it wasn’t until recently that scientists were able to identify the substance and class it as a banned performance-enhancing stimulant, he said.

``It’s made by the Russian army for army troops,″ de Merode said in an interview. ``I am told it is available on the black market in Russia, including on the streets in Moscow.″

Three Russian athletes, a Lithuanian cyclist and two Lithuanian team officials have been kicked out of the games over the use of bromantan.

The Russian Olympic committee has denied bromantan is a stimulant and appealed against the disqualification of two of its medalists.

``It’s incredible,″ de Merode said. ``They say it’s a conspiracy. But they’ve changed their story many times. And we know it’s a stimulant. There are lots of things about it in Russian literature.″

De Merode said bromantan is a ``psychostimulant″ and has the same properties as amphetamines. It makes athletes more alert, gives them a boost of energy and wards off fatigue, he said.

``The athletes can compete at their maximum limit without getting tired,″ he said.

De Merode said IOC-accredited doping labs in Tokyo, Montreal and Oslo have studied bromantan.

Athletes take the drug in tablets. Use of the substance can be detected within two days of its use, he said.

De Merode said a Lithuanian cyclist who tested positive for bromantan in Atlanta admitted using the drug two or three hours before every competition, including these games.

Athletes caught using the drug face two-year bans, he said. Bromantan is considered a more powerful stimulant than ephedrine, which carries a three-month suspension.

Russian swimmer Nina Zhivanevskaya, who finished first in the consolation final in the women’s 200-meter backstroke, was disqualified Tuesday.

Swimmer Andrei Korneyev, in the 200-meter breaststroke, and Greco-Roman wrestler Zafar Gulyov, in the 105 1/2-pound class, were stripped of their bronze medals on Monday. They appealed the cases to the Court for Arbitration in Sport.

A three-member court arbitration panel asked for expert’s testimony on the drug from a neutral laboratory. A final verdict was expected Thursday, said court general secretary Jean-Philipe Rochat.

Also nabbed earlier for bromantan was Lithuanian cyclist Rita Raznaite, whose 13th-place finish in the sprint was wiped out. Raznaite did not appeal, but her case led to two other drug expulsions Tuesday.

The IOC said it had banned Dr. Vitaly Slionssarenko, the Lithuanian cycling team physician, and revoked the credential of the team’s coach, Boris Vasilyev.

The Russian delegation argued the drug is not included on the IOC’s list of banned substances. But de Merode said bromantan is covered under the category of ``related substances.″

``We have an open list with some examples,″ he said. ``If we listed all the substances, we would need a dictionary.″

So far, no steroids have been detected at the games, despite the use of new high-resolution mass spectrometers which officials said should be much more effective than standard testing equipment.

``People were probably afraid of the new machines and were more careful,″ de Merode said. ``Maybe it had a deterrent effect.″

In a breakthrough, de Merode said scientists have finally developed a reliable test to detect illegal use of Erythropoietin (EPO), a hormone used to boost an athlete’s oxygen capacity. The drug is believed to be widely used in endurance sports, especially cycling.

``It’s now possible to detect artificial EPO,″ de Merode said. ``It’s clear without a doubt.″

De Merode said the EPO test will be ready for use by November. While earlier research focused on blood testing, EPO controls will be conducted on standard urine samples.