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Pan Am problems
Positive test for cocaine strips Cuban high jumper of gold
Posted: Thursday August 05, 1999 01:38 AM
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) -- Cuban high jump great Javier Sotomayor was stripped of his gold medal at the Pan American Games on Wednesday after testing positive for cocaine, the biggest drug scandal to hit track and field since Ben Johnson at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Sotomayor, considered Cuba's most popular athlete, will be suspended for two years -- knocking him out of this month's world championships and the Sydney Olympics, said Primo Nebiolo, president of track and field's international federation.
It is up to the Cuban federation to suspend Sotomayor. But Nebiolo said that if the Cubans do not suspend Sotomayor for two years, the IAAF will.
"I am shocked. I cannot believe it. I am very surprised and upset, because I have great esteem for Sotomayor," Nebiolo said from a meet in Monaco.
IAAF spokesman Giorgio Reineri said he expected the Cuban federation to appeal.
Although all sports have prescribed drug penalties, they are not always applied on recreational drugs that are not taken to enhance performance.
Mario Vasquez Rana, president of the Pan American Sports Organization, said that in doping cases, his group does not differentiate a recreational drug such as cocaine from a performance-enhancing substance such as a steroid.
"To us, it is sanctioned as an infraction," he said.
Sotomayor is the third athlete, all gold medalists, and the second high jumper to test positive at these games.
Steve Vezina, goalie for Canada's in-line roller hockey team, was caught using Nandrolone, costing the team its gold medal. Juana Rosario Arrendel, winner of the women's high jump and the only gold medalist from the Dominican Republic at the games so far, was stripped of her medal for using stanozolol.
In addition, Ray Martinez, a member of Mexico's baseball team, refused to take a drug test, which was tantamount to a positive test.
Cuba's medical officials at the Pan Am Games scheduled a news conference for later Wednesday.
Eduardo de Rose, medical chief for the Pan Am Games committee, said it makes no difference where the cocaine originated or why it was taken, even if it was in a medicine.
"Once the substance is found in urine, we do not question where it came from and the reason for taking it," de Rose said.
Sotomayor's urine sample showed cocaine in the amount of 200 parts per million, which would be consistent with a person who uses the drug, de Rose said.
He said the discovery of cocaine traces indicates the drug would have been taken four to five days before the test.
"More than that, we would not find it," he said. "When we find traces of cocaine, ... it shows the ingestion was very recent."
Sotomayor was seen in Cuba on Tuesday night at a rally for the gold medal-winning baseball team and stood beside President Fidel Castro.
On Friday, Sotomayor became the first person to win four Pan Am track and field titles in the same event Friday when he cleared 7-6 1/2.
Sotomayor won the 1992 Olympic gold medal, the 1993 and 1997 world outdoor championships, and the 1989, 1993, 1995 and 1999 world indoor championships.
He was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1988-89, 1992-95 and 1997-98.
It was a further embarrassment to Cuba's team at the Pan Am games. Eight Cubans have left the delegation, including one journalist, with authorities saying at least seven plan to defect.
The finding against Sotomayor marked the biggest scandal in track and field since Johnson was stripped of his 100-meter gold medal and world record in Seoul for using the performance-enhancing drug stanozolol.
Johnson later returned to competition, but he again tested positive for drugs in 1993 and was suspended for life. He is appealing that second ban and has asked for reinstatement by the International Amateur Athletic Federation. The IAAF Council will meet at Seville, Spain, on Aug. 17 to decide the case.
Sotomayor's case was the third involving big-name track athletes in the past two days.
On Tuesday, Dennis Mitchell, the U.S. 100-meter champion and 1992 Olympic bronze medalist, was banned for two years by the IAAF after a drug test showed high levels of testosterone. Earlier Wednesday, Britain's Linford Christie, 1992 Olympic 100-meter gold medalist, was suspended by the IAAF after a drug test showed the possible presence of Nandrolone. Christie insisted he was innocent and intends to defend himself against the charges.
Sotomayor assured his place in sports history by soaring 8 feet at the Central American Championships at San Juan, Puerto Rico, on July 29, 1989. He improved that record to 8-0 1/2 at Salamanca, Spain, on July 27, 1993.
He set the world indoor record of 7-11 1/2 on March 4, 1989. He has cleared 7-8 1/2 a record 88 times and 7-10 1/2 a record 21 times.
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