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WNBA
Posted: Wednesday February 16, 2011 12:41PM ; Updated: Wednesday February 16, 2011 4:05PM

Taurasi cleared to resume play in Turkey, 2012 Olympics

Story Highlights

A lab retracted Diana Taurasi's finding that she tested positive for a banned drug

The Turkish Basketball Federation lifted the suspension on the American star

The federation did not say whether the lab made a mistake with its testing

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Diana Taurasi, who insisted that she never used performance-enhancing drugs, had her contract terminated by Turkish club Fenerbahce after a lab said she tested positive for modafinil.
AP

Diana Taurasi was always confident she would be cleared of doping allegations.

It finally happened on Wednesday.

Taurasi had her provisional suspension lifted by the Turkish Basketball Federation, which said the lab that returned a positive test retracted its report after it "evaluated" Taurasi's statements in her defense. The federation did not say whether the lab made a mistake.

"I got the news this morning at 5 a.m. and was in shock," Taurasi told The Associated Press by phone from her Phoenix home. "It was kind of like the first time when I heard the test result had come back positive. It's really good that the facts came out and the truth came out."

Taurasi had insisted that she never used performance-enhancing drugs, even though she had her contract terminated by Turkish club Fenerbahce last month. The lab that tested her sample had said the results came back positive for the stimulant modafinil.

"Life can throw you curveballs at any given time," said Taurasi, who will also be able to compete in the 2012 Olympics. "I can be mad and angry, but I will move forward. Not everyone has the same financial resources I did. Hopefully this will let people know every process has holes and to wait for the facts to come out before making decisions."

With the lifting of the suspension, Taurasi is also free to continue playing in the Turkish basketball league, although she doesn't plan on going back there anytime soon.

"That's pretty unlikely," the 28-year-old WNBA star said. "I'm here in Phoenix working out and am more focused on getting myself in the best shape of my life and going from there."

She intends to return to the WNBA when the season begins in June. The Mercury guard has led the league in scoring the last four seasons and signed a multiyear extension last August.

The last two months haven't been easy for the former UConn star. Yet she kept her faith that she would be cleared.

"I tried to handle it as best as possible," Taurasi said. "There might have been times in my own private moments when I was angry or questioned why me, but I am glad the truth came out. It's scary that our careers can be taken away from us."

Taurasi was the first prominent WNBA player to test positive for a banned substance. Had she not been cleared, Taurasi could have missed the London Games, because the International Olympic Committee bars any athlete given a doping penalty of six months or more from competing.

Fenerbahce had terminated Taurasi's contract after the Ankara-based lab within Hacettepe University confirmed that her "A" and "B" samples tested positive for modafinil following a Turkish league game Nov. 13. Taurasi had been suspended by Fenerbahce ever since.

Modafinil is used to counter excessive sleepiness due to narcolepsy, shift-work sleep disorder or sleep apnea, according to drug manufacturers.

"It's always great when the right result happens," Taurasi's lawyer Howard Jacobs said. "When it happens reasonably quickly it's even better."

The federation also lifted the provisional doping suspension for American player Monique Coker, who plays for Ceyhan Belediyesi and had tested positive for modafinil in doping tests carried out by the same lab.

"I was thrilled to read today's report that the precautionary ban on Diana had been lifted by the Turkish Federation," UConn and U.S. basketball coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement.

"Throughout this entire ordeal, Dee maintained her innocence and for her to be exonerated makes me incredibly happy for her," Auriemma said. "I hope she can put this behind her and focus all her efforts on continuing to be the best player in the world."

Taurasi helped the Americans win gold medals at the past two Olympics and was the leading scorer when the U.S. won the women's world championship this past October.

"We're delighted that Diana has been cleared and can now put this behind her and continue her remarkable basketball career," USA Basketball executive director Jim Tooley said in a statement. "She has been an exemplary member of numerous USA Basketball teams since 2000, and we look forward to her continued involvement with USA Basketball."

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
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