SYDNEY — Tired of defending himself against repeated drug slurs, top Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe on Thursday volunteered to be blood tested before the Sydney Olympics to end doubts about his record breaking performances.

Although Thorpe has never failed a dope test, the 17-year-old world champion and record holder has been the victim of a thinly-veiled smear campaign since he burst onto the international stage three years ago.

In an attempt to prove his innocence, Thorpe has not only agreed to publicly release the results of his urine tests but also wants to submit a blood sample for performance-enhancing drugs that cannot be detected by conventional methods.

Thorpe said the sample could be frozen then re-examined once a suitable test had been found.

‘It’s very frustrating for all the clean athletes in the world that we don’t have a way to prove we’re innocent,’ Thorpe told a news conference on Thursday.

‘So I want to volunteer to be the first athlete to undergo a blood test. I know the testing procedure isn’t quite ready yet but I’m happy to do it.’

With the Sydney Olympics just eight weeks away, Thorpe is spearheading a government-backed campaign to try and convince the world Australia’s athletes are squeaky-clean.

In launching the program, Thorpe signed a document, or ‘passport’, giving permission for the Australian Sports Drug Agency to publicly release details of his past and future drugs tests.

Australia’s federal sports minister, Jackie Kelly, said she hoped Australia’s other leading athletes would follow Thorpe’s lead by volunteering to take part in the program but warned they would be ‘publicly and totally humiliated’ if they did test positive for any banned substances.

‘That’s one of the greatest deterrents in sport,’ Kelly said.

Thorpe is the red-hot favourite to win the 200-400-metre freestyle double at the Sydney Olympics in September after lowering his own world record in both events at this year’s Australian trials.

But his success has come at a price with some overseas competitors questioning his achievements.

German team captain, Chris-Carol Bremer, was quoted in newspaper reports last week as saying Thorpe’s large hands and feet could be side-effects from human growth hormone drug use.

According to Thorpe’s manager, Bremen later apologised to the Sydney teenager, claiming he had been misquoted.

‘I’m getting used to that sort of thing and it really doesn’t concern me anymore,’ Thorpe said.

‘I’m just looking forward to the day when blood tests are compulsory and there’s no more doubt.’

Julian Linden Reuters

Source: SOCOG