After a week of saying that injuries, illness and poor performance were involved in some cases, Chinese officials said Tuesday that nearly all the 27 athletes cut from the Olympic team failed drug tests.
He Huixian, the Chinese Olympic Committee's spokeswoman, said "the overwhelming majority" had suspicious results in blood tests for the performance-enhancing drug EPO.
Among them were six runners trained by coach Ma Junren, whose record-smashing "Ma's Army" stunned the world in the 1990s. The spokeswoman said Ma was responsible for his runners' failed tests _ "that is without doubt." At the same time, He said, China is not the only offender: "EPO has polluted the world sports stage. Many countries know that they have athletes using EPO, including America, Australia, Germany, England, France _ they all know. It's a global problem."
Ma and his runners were among the most conspicuous absentees in the squad, expected to produce 16 gold medals for China, matching its total in Atlanta four years ago.
By leaving home those who failed drug tests, Chinese officials may have improved Beijing's bid for the 2008 Olympics and avoided a repeat of doping scandals at the 1994 Asian Games and 1998 swimming world championships.
Lacy ready to box
Jeff Lacy listened politely as the Australian reporter rambled on with a question. It concerned Paul Miller, a middleweight who is Australia's best hope for a medal in boxing. The reporter wanted to know what Lacy, one of the top middleweight contenders, thought about Miller.
"Who is he?" Lacy asked, and laughter exploded in the room.
Realizing what he said, Lacy got a sheepish grin and said, "I guess I answered your question."
The St. Petersburg native was cordial but reserved at a news conference for USA Boxing late Tuesday at Sydney. He has been in Australia for nearly two weeks, and he is growing impatient.
"I'm getting tired of waiting," Lacy said. "The days are going by fast, but not fast enough. I've been waiting a long time for this."
Lacy, 23, has a few more days to go. The draw for boxing is today, and Lacy is expected to compete in his first bout Monday.
He has been on the road since Aug. 20, when he left St. Petersburg to join the Olympic training camp in San Diego. In Sydney, Lacy has alternated three-a-day training sessions (running, gym work, sparring) and two-a-day sessions (running, gym work).
The accomodations have been great, and he said he has had a few excursions around the city. But mostly he has bided his time thinking about his first bout.
"I haven't been thinking about any particular boxer, just what I'm going to do when I get in the ring," Lacy said. "You want to know how ready I am? Just ring a bell and you'll see."
MORE DRUGS: Taiwan is sending weightlifter Chen Po-pu home amid reports he was caught using steroids. Taiwanese media said Chen tested positive for steroids at an out-of-competition test last month.
AIRPORT FUMES: Noxious fumes, apparently from a cleaning solvent, escaped into part of Sydney's international airport, and at least 50 people were treated, officials said.
An initial investigation indicated the fumes were caused by a cleaning solvent that spilled into the airport's air conditioning system, ambulance spokesman Ian Krimmer said.
BASEBALL: The U.S. team routed Korea 15-0, finishing its pre-Olympics exhibition schedule with a 5-1 record. Brent Abernathy, Ernie Young and Adam Everett combined for nine of the Americans' 17 hits, and Mike Kinkade, Pat Borders and Young hit home runs. Abernathy and Borders play in the Devil Rays farm system. In the second inning, Everett's two-run double scored two runs, and former University of Florida player Brad Wilkerson followed with a two-run triple before Ernie Young's two-run homer. The Cleveland Indians recalled C.C. Sabathia because the U.S. team planned to use him out of the bullpen. The left-hander could start against Boston next week.
CHELSEA ON WAY: President Clinton sent his daughter, Chelsea, off with a hug as a member of the official U.S. delegation to the Games. Chelsea, 20, taking a semester off from Stanford University, will be one of 10 members of a delegation led by Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala.
DIVING: The IOC rejected Arturo Miranda's appeal to be allowed to compete for Canada, saying he lacked a waiver from his former country, Cuba. Miranda became a Canadian citizen in December.
GYMNASTICS: Lu Yufu, China's top finisher in last year's world championships, is out of the Olympics after injuring his neck during a practice vault, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
TENNIS: Switzerland's 1992 champion, Marc Rosset, has withdrawn from the Games, further weakening a team missing Martina Hingis and Patty Schnyder.
Staff writer John Romano contributed to this report.