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New drug test may be ready for Athens

A test for human growth hormone is almost complete and likely will be introduced at the Athens Olympics.

Human growth hormone, which was previously undetectable, is considered one of the most widely used banned substances in sports. Even if the test is not ready for Athens, officials will be able to retest samples later to punish cheaters retroactively.

Human growth hormone, or hGH, works like an anabolic steroid, building muscle mass and helping athletes recover from training faster. Olivier Rabin, science director of the WorldAnti-Doping Agency, said WADA is in the final phase of validating two hGH tests. Both involve blood, not urine, tests.

BASKETBALL ADOPTS CODE: Basketball's international federation adopted the worldwide code that aims to crack down on drug cheats. The code, which will be in place in Athens, applies to the 212 national basketball associations and covers FIBA events. It does not apply to professional leagues like the NBA. The code includes two-year bans for an athlete's first serious doping offense.

FIGURE SKATING

Petrenko charged

Viktor Petrenko, who won gold at the 1992 Olympics, was charged with drunken driving after he crashed into a utility pole and fence in Simsbury, Conn. A police officer found Petrenko alone inside the wrecked sport utility vehicle Wednesday night. The 34-year-old Ukrainian complained of a minor injury but declined treatment, police said. He was released after posting $250 bond and is due in court Feb. 9.

OLYMPICS

Iraq elects ex-athlete

The former basketball/track star and defector elected to head Iraq's Olympic committee promised not to "forget the painful past," when Saddam Hussein's son Odai was in charge of the nation's sports program. Ahmed al-Sammarai, a former general who returned last year after 20 years in exile, was unanimously elected as president of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee.

Selection of al-Sammarai and other officials could pave the way for Iraqi athletes to compete in Athens if the IOC lifts the suspension imposed after Saddam's regime collapsed in April.

ET CETERA

ARENA FOOTBALL: Orlando signed offensive/defensive lineman Buck Gurley, a former Bucs and Gators defensive lineman. Gurley was on the Bucs' 53-man roster during the 2003 playoffs but was inactive for Super Bowl XXXVII.

AUTOS: Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Pruett, in the No. 01 Lexus-powered Riley Daytona prototype, won the the pole for Saturday's Rolex 24 at Daytona. Pruett set a track record with a 1:45.783 lap at 121.154 mph, shaving more than four seconds off David Donohue's mark.

BOXING: Lennox Lewis has until March 1 to decide if he will defend his heavyweight title in a rematch with Vitali Klitschko. The WBC said if Lewis decides not to fight, he will be stripped of his title. Klitschko and Corrie Sanders would then fight for the vacant crown.

_ FRANK PASTOR, TIMES WIRES

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