Atlanta '96: Positive drug test on Australian

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The Independent Online
The first doping incident of the 1996 Olympics occurred yesterday when it was reported that Dean Capobianco, the Australian sprinter, who is preparing to take part in the Games, had tested positive for a banned substance, writes Mike Rowbottom.

Under the terms of the new contract which all Olympic competitors have been obliged to sign, any drug offence must be referred to an independent doping tribunal.

Athletics Australia issued a statement confirming that they were conducting an investigation into an alleged doping offence involving an Atlanta Olympic team member following a recent International Amateur Athletic Federation test in Europe. They did not name the athlete concerned, whom they said had strongly denied the allegation.

The offence, the statement continued, was being referred to a tribunal chaired by the Hon Robert Ellicott, QC, a London-based solicitor who had been chosen by the athlete in question. The hearing it said "may conclude within the next week."

Capobianco, 26, who has raced frequently in Britain, was fifth in the World Championship 200 metres in 1993. He is believed to have tested positive for the banned steroid stanozolol - the same drug which caused Ben Johnson to be stripped of the 1988 Olympic 100 metres title.

Heike Drechsler, the Olympic long jump champion, has withdrawn from Germany's team for the Olympic Games in Atlanta because she has not sufficiently recovered from a torn knee ligament. She picked up the injury in May and was forced to pull out of several key meetings including last month's European Cup. Drechsler said her target was now next year's World Championships.

Linford Christie, who only recently decided to take part in the Olympics, was defended by the British Athletic Federation yesterday over his choice of flight to the Olympics.

The federation dismissed the suggestion that he had snubbed the official carrier, Delta, by using British Airways. The BAF spokesman, Tony Ward, said."It's not as if we came out here in one great party, with everyone wearing team blazers. Linford made his own travel arrangements - and as it turned out it was a wise choice."

Christie, who is bidding to become only the second man after Carl Lewis to defend the 100 metres title successfully, is staying in an apartment away from his team-mates at the British Olympic Association camp at Florida State University, but will train with them.

Jonathan Edwards is doing the same. Liz McColgan is preparing 180 miles away in Gainesville, while Sally Gunnell has decided on a South Carolina base.

"Every athlete has to prepare in the way he or she thinks best," Ward said. "When we move into Atlanta, everyone will stay in the Olympic village."

Gunnell, the defending 400m hurdles champion who broke down in her last race in Lausanne a fortnight ago with an inflamed Achilles tendon, has completed two track sessions after resting for a week.

"Sally is in some pain, but has been told to expect that through the Games," Ward said. "She has done the sessions so far that she wanted, including hurdling, and is feeling quite confident.

Kelly Holmes, who has been pondering what to run in Atlanta, will do the 800m and then decide whether to also compete in the 1500m later, according to the team manager, Verona Elder. Holmes won a World Championship bronze in the two-lap event last season and a 1500m silver, but this summer has often looked more impressive over the shorter distance.

Du'aine Ladejo, the European 400m champion, has recovered from the stomach complaint which forced him to pull out when about to run in last week's London Grand Prix.