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Attorneys for a Dutch soccer star who escaped a doping allegation with a minor penalty say the International Olympic Committee (IOC) faces increasing pressure — including the possibility of class actions by athletes in the United States — to re-examine inflexible doping regulations before the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City. Frank De Boer, a citizen of the Netherlands and captain of the Barcelona soccer team, was hit with a one-year global ban from professional soccer after traces of the anabolic steroid nandrolone were detected in a routine screening. De Boer gathered an international team of lawyers and specialists to contest the penalty, imposed by the governing body of European soccer. He succeeded last month in having it reduced to a two-month suspension. The suspension will lapse in time for him to participate in the qualifying rounds of the World Cup, beginning in September. De Boer’s American lawyer, Douglas Lambert of Miami, Fla.’s Akerman Senterfitt, said the case has a direct bearing on the upcoming Salt Lake City Olympics. Both the IOC and European soccer authorities impose the same standard for nandrolone, and the soccer federation requires screenings to be conducted at the IOC-certified laboratory in Switzerland. “This [ruling] goes immediately to the Olympics,” Lambert said. “If the standards are arbitrary, or if they are enforced arbitrarily, that could mean action in the United States. They [the IOC] are enforcing a standard with dire consequences for athletes, and we want to make certain this is enforced fairly.” Nandrolone and the De Boer case present the IOC with perhaps the thorniest issue in the highly charged area of athletic doping, said lead attorney Cor Hellingman of Hellingman Bunders Advocaten in Amsterdam. The IOC categorizes nandrolone, a form of testosterone, as a prohibited substance, even though specialists have concluded that it is naturally present in the body in minute quantities. In recent years, a number of international sports stars, including track and field athletes and nine European soccer stars, have been hit with nandrolone charges. The decision to give De Boer a minor suspension is a victory, but it allowed both the European soccer authorities and the IOC to prevent the confrontation from spilling into Europe’s civil courts, said Hellingman. The larger issue, he said, is the policy of “strict liability” and the inflexible application of tough penalties. “It is irrelevant to the IOC what the amount is that exceeds the standard or whether the substance was taken deliberately or accidentally,” he said. In De Boer’s case, the level of nandrolone measured in his body was 5.6 nanograms, which works out to 5.6 parts per billion. The standard is 2 ppb. Hellingman noted evidence that food supplements, which are now used by high-level athletes, combined with grueling training, can result in elevated nandrolone levels. Rich Wanninger, spokesman for the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which enforces Olympic doping regulations for the Salt Lake City games, said he foresees no relaxing of the strict standards. “Regardless of whether it is a little over or a lot over, it is the same offense,” he said.

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