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Hungarian set to lose discus gold

Douglas Hamilton in Athens | August 24, 2004 22:01 IST

A Hungarian discus-thrower was set to lose his gold medal on Tuesday for trying to cheat on a drugs test, setting a dismal record for Athens as the first Olympics to see two athletics champions disgraced and expelled.

An International Olympic Committee (IOC) source said Robert Fazekas was caught trying to tamper with a urine sample and will be stripped of his discus gold then thrown out.

Robert FazekasFazekas had not wanted to take a doping test after Monday's final and when he did, he tried to cheat the process but was spotted by officials, the source said. Hungarian officials said Fazekas had difficulty producing enough urine for a sample.

He will be the second Athens Olympics champion to forfeit his title after Irina Korzhanenko of Russia lost her shot put gold on Sunday for testing positive for a banned steroid. She was the first track-and-field gold winner caught out since sprinter Ben Johnson put doping on the front pages in 1988.

The litany of drug scandals lengthened, with Belarussian high jumper Aleksey Lesnichiy, who was last in qualifying, testing positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol, an IOC source said.

FANS MUTINY

While track cheats were being found out, judges were also in the firing line at the Games after angry gymnastics fans mutinied and Russia drafted a fierce protest to Olympics bosses.

Chaos erupted at Monday evening's horizontal bars final event when jeering and whistling fans held the contest up for 10 minutes, until ruffled judges improved the score of Russian Olympic champion "Sexy Alexei" Nemov's display.

"The public's reaction to the judges' actions clearly supports our position," spokesman Gennady Shvets said as President Vladimir Putin's Kremlin sports supremo and top Russian officials met in Athens to plan their next move.

Spectators at the hallowed Olympics can boo as loud as any others. But overwhelmingly it happens in sports that rely on a subjective assessment of performance, such as gymnastics, diving and synchronised swimming.

"We want to draw this to the attention of the heads of the International Olympic Committee," Shvets said. Bulgaria and South Korea have also complained about the gymnastics judging.

After talks with lawyers, Shvets said no formal appeals to the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) were likely and there was no talk of a walkout.

In 2002, Russia threatened to pull out of the Salt Lake City Winter Games, saying their team was being victimised by judges.

ATLAS SHRUGS

Judges will have little say in awarding the title of "world's strongest man", to be bestowed in the super-heavyweight weightlifting competition before a sold-out crowd on Wednesday.

Iranian Hercules Hossein Rezazadeh, a human crane able to hoist refrigerators with ease, is defending champion at a massive 160 kg (353 lbs) and 1.85 m (6ft 1in).

The question was, would he go for the mythical 500-kg mark in his two lifts in Greece, or wait until Beijing in 2008. Rezazadeh wasn't saying.

During the Cold War, ideology would have been prime suspect in any dispute over Olympic scoring. In today's climate of mega-sponsorship, Russian officials believe there is a subliminal bias towards wealthy-nation athletes.

"We're not talking about money or that kind of bribery," team spokesman Shvets said. "But there is a tendency for people to think of what's profitable. People have their sympathies."

Russia came to these Games with hopes that Putin's new emphasis on sport, after a post-Soviet decline, could put them back on top with around 40 gold medals.

With only six medals so far, the former sports superpower's haul of Athens gold is strikingly light. It currently stands 11th in the medals table, behind Britain and well out of reach of the United States and China in the top two positions.

But the Nemov controversy compounded a nasty gaffe last week by judges who gave American gymnast Paul Hamm the all-round gold in error, after South Korea's Yang Tae-young was incorrectly penalised in the parallel bars routine.

The federation admitted the mistake but will not change the medals, saying there was nothing in its rules on that.


Athens 2004: The Complete Coverage

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