Romanians return medals, initiate boycott
The Rediff Team
In a display of unity, all Romanian gymnasts have returned their medals and decided to boycott the ceremony, later this afternoon, wherein a new gold medallist for the women's all round ll be honoured following the disqualification of Andreea Raducan.
Raducan, the first Romanian to win gold since Nadia Comaneci, tested positive for pseudoephedrine, a stimulant easily found in a common cold remedy, and was stropped of her gold. She was given Nurofen tablets by team doctor Loachin Oana.
IOC executive board member Dr Jacques Rogge, who announced that Raducan would be deprived of her medal, said in a media briefing: ''It is a very painful decision. This is one of the worst experiences I have had in my Olympic life, having to strip a gold medal from the individual gymnastic champion for something that she did not intentionally do is very tough.''
It is about to get tougher, for the IOC, for word out of the Athletes' Village is that gymnasts from other countries might also boycott this afternoon's ceremony in protest. Romanian silver medallist Simona Amanar and bronze medallist Maria Olaru were supposed to become the new gold and silver medallists, but neither of them will attend the ceremony or accept their medals.
Raducan, who broke down when the decision was announced and hasn't slept since, has moved out of the Athletes' Village since, according to sources within the Romanian team, she feels ashamed to face her team-mates, and has moved into a Sydney hotel. She will turn 17 on Saturday.
Raducan has appealed the decision. The ball is now in the court of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
A decision is expected some time Thursday.
The IOC executive board meanwhile stands by its medical commission ruling. However, there is a of opinion even within the IOC which holds that the appropriate action would be to warn Raducan and ban the doctor concerned, without however taking away the medal.
Richard Pound, IOC vice president and head of the World Anti-doping Agency, however says that he is obliged to stay within the letter of the law. ''She is not guilty of intentional doping ... but she tested positive and that speaks for itself,'' Pound said.
IOC medical director Prince Alexandre de Merode though said categorically that Raducan was suffering for someone else's stupidity.
The Romanians meanwhile have been talking to gymnasts of other nations with a view to making the boycott total. Simultaneously, the Russians are campaigning for Raducan to be stripped of her teams' as well.
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