American sprinter Kelli White has been stripped of her 100 and 200 metre gold medals from the 2003 world championships after accepting a two-year suspension for taking banned drugs.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said on Wednesday that White, 27, had admitted taking the drugs and accepted the minimum ban for her first offence involving the use of prohibited substances, including undetectable steroids and the blood-boosting erythropoietin (EPO).
The admission of guilt by one of the sport's leading names is a major victory for anti-doping authorities and comes after 10 months of rumours and allegations swirling around the cream of American athletics.
White's suspension started from Monday and means she will miss August's Olympic Games. All her results since December 15, 2000, have been disqualified, annulling her gold medals at the world and U.S. championships.
Compatriot Torri Edwards will be the new world 100m champion and is now U.S. champion in both events, while Anastasiya Kapachinskaya of Russia becomes world champion in the 200m.
White hopes to have her ban reduced in exchange for helping U.S. Olympic authorities, who have pledged to send a clean team to the Athens Games, rid the sport of drug cheats.
"Ms White admits she used the substances to be as competitive as she could and several of the substances she used were undetectable," said a statement released on her behalf.
"In doing this, I have not only cheated myself, but also my family, friends and sport. I am sorry for the poor choices I have made," White said.
The statement added that USADA possessed "convincing" documentary evidence of her violations.
White's lawyer Jerrold D. Colton said in the statement: "Not only will Kelli be a witness in USADA'S proceedings as they go forward but she is also a federal witness."
White tested positive for a stimulant, modafinil, at the world championships in Paris last August. The news that she had admitted taking steroids and EPO was unexpected.
The evidence of her rule violations was gathered, in part, by USADA from documents obtained in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) investigation and provided by the Senate Commerce Committee.
"Ms White has made mistakes but I admire her courage in acknowledging these mistakes and accepting responsibility for them. It's not easy to admit you've done wrong and then stand up to do something about it," said Terry Madden, USADA chief executive.
USA Track & Field chief executive Craig Masback added: "It's tragic any time an athlete makes a choice to cheat but we're glad Kelli is taking responsibility for her actions.
"We thank USADA and the federal government for their continued work in the fight against drugs. Their leadership makes USATF's Zero Tolerance goals achievable."
White's evidence as a whistle-blower could prove important as she has an intimate knowledge of how top athletes operate in the U.S.
"If there are other athletes who have engaged in cheating, we would encourage them to follow this example and atone for their mistakes by cooperating with USADA," said a statement from United States Olympic Committee chief executive Jim Scherr.
White was one of several prominent athletes who gave evidence to the San Francisco hearing into the operations of BALCO, whose owner Victor Conte is indicted on charges of peddling banned steroids including tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), only identified as a result of a tip-off last year.
White's coach Remi Korchemny has also been indicted for distributing banned drugs.
The Senate Committee, chaired by former U.S. presidential candidate Senator John McCain, said this month that it would hand over any incriminating findings from the BALCO inquiry to USADA.
This could mean American athletes being banned without failing a drugs test -- a so-called "non-analytical positive" -- which is effectively the case with White.
The IAAF has welcomed White's ban. It said athletes who tested positive or admitted taking similar substances would be expected to serve at least a year even if they helped catch other cheats.