Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Ruling: Young should forfeit Olympic gold for doping

The Associated Press

LAUSANNE, Switzerland - U.S. sprinter Jerome Young should be stripped of his Sydney Olympics relay gold for flunking a steroid test in 1999, the world's top sports court ruled Tuesday in a case that pitted U.S. track officials against their international counterparts.

Now, world sports officials must decide whether Young's relay teammates - including Michael Johnson - also should forfeit their medals.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport, which found Young guilty of doping, was not asked to rule on his relay teammates. But the panel said it "does not necessarily accept that, in the unusual circumstances of the present case, this consequence must follow."

Young tested positive for the steroid nandrolone in 1999 and was suspended from competition. He was exonerated - avoiding a two-year ban - when a USA Track & Field appeals panel ruled that a clean test taken six days after the positive test raised a "reasonable doubt."

Young, the reigning 400-meter world champion, reiterated Tuesday that he has "never taken a prohibited substance."

"I am disappointed with the decision," Young said in a statement released by his attorney, Stephen Chien. "I believe that today's CAS decision is fundamentally unfair - I was exonerated in 2000 by a panel of three independent and objective arbitrators who considered the evidence before it and concluded that USA Track & Field failed to prove its case against me."

Chien said he could not comment on whether Young plans to compete in the 400 at the U.S. Olympic trials in Sacramento, Calif., that begin next weekend.

Track and field's world governing body is expected to follow the court's ruling and recommend to the International Olympic Committee that Young's medal be stripped.

After years of refusing to provide details on the case to international sports officials, USATF officials acknowledged for the first time in February that Young had tested positive in 1999 and agreed to hand over key documents.

USATF officials said confidentiality rules blocked them from releasing the information before this year. But some international sports officials accused the USATF of protecting drug cheats.

The case also led to tensions between the USATF and the U.S. Olympic Committee, which last fall threatened to begin decertification proceedings against the track federation if it did not provide world sports officials with documents pertaining to Young.

The Young case highlights how things have changed in U.S. track and field since the 2000 Sydney Games. The USATF has turned over authority in drug matters to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which aggressively is going after suspected dopers - in some cases without positive drug tests.

"Under the anti-doping program administered by the United States Anti-Doping Agency now in place, a situation like this will never arise again," USOC chief executive Jim Scherr said in a statement.

The Swiss-based arbitration court, in a ruling that is final and cannot be appealed, said Young should have been banned from June 26, 1999, until June 25, 2001 - making him ineligible for the 2000 Olympics.

The International Association of Athletics now will decide whether to recommend to the IOC that the entire 1,600-meter relay team, including Johnson, be disqualified.

Young ran in the opening heat and semifinal round of the relay in Sydney. It was the last of Johnson's 14 Olympic and world championship gold medals. Other members of the team were twin brothers Alvin and Calvin Harrison, Antonio Pettigrew and Angelo Taylor.

The Harrisons also are facing doping accusations.

Alvin Harrison is one of four athletes threatened with a lifetime ban by USADA because of alleged steroid use. Calvin Harrison faces a possible two-year ban because of two minor doping violations.

The IAAF Council, whose next scheduled meeting is during the Aug. 13-29 Athens Games, will recommend to the IOC whether to disqualify the whole U.S. team. If the American squad is disqualified, Nigeria would be awarded gold, Jamaica silver, and the Bahamas bronze.

"The IAAF is extremely pleased that a case that began in 1999 can now finally be closed," IAAF president Lamine Diack said in a statement. "Although the suspension is now retroactive, it is important for the IAAF to demonstrate that doping offenses, whenever they come to light, will be sanctioned according to our rules."

Olympic schedule

July 9-18:

U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials

Aug. 13:

Athens Games opening ceremonies

Aug. 18-29:

Olympic track and field competition

Coming Sunday

As talk of steroid use permeates pro sports, the Enquirer examines the prevalence of chemicals, particularly the supplement creatine, in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky high schools.

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