Drugs in sport: Athletes compete despite positive tests

OLYMPIC GAMES
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The athletics authorities, wary of being taken to court and sued, decided yesterday not to ban two competitors from taking part in the Atlanta Olympics even though they had failed drug tests.

The International Amateur Athletic Federation decided that the Australian sprinter Dean Capobianco and the Italian high jumper Antonella Bevilacqua could compete. However, a final decision on their cases will be taken after the Games.

Istvan Gyulai, the IAAF's general secretary, sounded far from satisfied with the action he felt his organisation had been obliged to take. "It is embarrassing that there are two committed doping cases and the athletes are in the Games... Sadly, we decided to make the decision after taking legal advice. Unfortunately, they was no other means."

Asked if the Atlanta track and field events would now have two drug users in its ranks, the IAAF's medical chief, Arne Ljungqvist, said: "It seems that way."

Gyulai said athletics' governing body had tried to persuade the Italian and Australian Olympic Committees to pull the athletes out of the Games but they had refused.

Capobianco tested positive for the steroid stanozolol, the substance found in Ben Johnson's urine at the Seoul Games at a meeting in the Dutch town of Hengelo last May, but an Australian athletics appeals tribunal ruled against a compulsory four-year ban, saying there were serious flaws in testing procedures.

Bevilacqua, one of the top six jumpers in the world this year, was caught twice with the banned stimulant ephedrine in her body in May. An Italian panel decided she had taken the drug by mistake and did not impose the usual three-month ban.

Primo Nebiolo, the head of the IAAF, said after a meeting of the federation's ruling council that he regarded the cases as definite drug offences. But the IAAF council decided to follow its rules by the letter and put the case to its arbitration panel, despite the fact it can make its own rulings on controversial cases and has done in the past.

The arbitration panel usually takes at least three months to arrange a hearing.

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