Drugs steal headlines from sport
The embarrassing stigma of drugs again dragged the spotlight away from sport at the Olympics Tuesday with a high profile US athlete and a petite Romanian gymnast at the centre of a new furore.
With the athletes taking a rest day there was little to distract
from the doping controversy except a convincing victory by Cuban
boxing great Felix Savon and the warm afterglow of Aborigine runner
Cathy Freeman's 400 metres triumph on Monday.
The most damaging controversy surrounded world shot put champion
C J Hunter, husband of sprint champion Marion Jones, whose quest
for five gold medals has made her the most prominent athlete here
Hunter, a massive figure, broke down in tears at a news
conference and pledged to clear his name after International Olympic
Committee officials said he had tested positive four times
this year for the anabolic steroid nandrolone.
''I don't know what happened, I don't know how it happened...I
can promise that I will defend myself vigorously. We have put
together a great team and I am quite positive that when all is said
and done I will be exonerated,'' Hunter declared.
Earlier, gymnast Andreea Raducan, who will be 17 on Saturday,
was stripped of her all-round gold medal after testing positive for
pseudo-ephedrine contained in nurofen pills she took as a cold cure.
She was the fifth athlete to test positive for drugs in
competition at the Games. The others were three Bulgarian
weightlifters, all medallists, and a Latvian rower.
Raducan is being allowed to keep the team gold and silver
collected earlier in the gymnastics competition.
The romanian team appealed to the court of arbitration for
sport to reverse the ruling and it will conduct a hearing in
Sydney on Wednesday. If it rules in her favour the gold will be
returned to Raducan.
However, the Romanian team doctor, held to be responsible for
giving Raducan the cold cure, has been expelled and suspended from
the next Games in 2004.
Jacques Rogge, a member of the IOC medical commission, expressed
some sympathy for Raducan but said they had had to act out of
fairness to her rivals.
In the Olympic boxing tournament, Savon stayed on course
for his third successive gold medal by abruptly ending the odyssey
of redemption by American heavyweight world champion Michael
Bennett, who served seven years in jail for armed robbery before
returning to boxing.
The eagerly-awaited quarter-final was seen by many as the real
final of the boxing tournament and the spectators included WBA
professional heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.
But Savon, who some had said was too old and too slow at 33
years of age, showed devastatingly who was best.
The fight was stopped inside three rounds, with Bennett
considered outclassed under the ''mercy'' rule which can be applied
when one boxer is 15 points ahead.
But none of the controversy or sporting action could take away
from Australians a sense of euphoria over Freeman's victory, her
face smiled forth from a sea of newspapers.
Freeman was universally hailed both as one of Australia's
greatest athletic heroes and a graceful and potent ambassador
for racial reconciliation, credited with bringing black and white
Australians closer than ever before.
Newspaper editorialists waxed lyrical over how no Australian
would forget the moment when she pounded round the track in the
Olympic stadium to win the first athletics gold for her country
since the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Freeman's victory had much more than a sporting dimension
because of her role as Australia's best known and best loved
''Right from the opening ceremonies, to what Cathy Freeman did
last night before us all... Has sent a clear message of
reconciliation right through,'' Evelyn Scott, chairman of the
Council of Aboriginal Reconciliation, told Reuters.
''It's a positive sign that things can only get better.''
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