Another positive drug test for Ben Johnson

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The Independent Online

Ben Johnson has tested positive again, but the sprinter's agent, who paid for the latest test, said the former world record-holder was taking the banned substance for medical reasons.

Ben Johnson has tested positive again, but the sprinter's agent, who paid for the latest test, said the former world record-holder was taking the banned substance for medical reasons.

Morris Chrobotek, the agent for the sprinter who was banned from competition for life in 1993 after a second positive drug test, confirmed on Monday that Johnson tested positive for a banned diuretic in October.

Chrobotek, who paid for the test in question, said the result was leaked before the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports had concluded that it constituted a doping infraction.

"It is devastating to him, as it was to me," Chrobotek said of Johnson's reaction to the test.

Chrobotek said he was confident the test result would be cleared up and called for the person who leaked the report to be prosecuted.

Victor Lachance, CEO of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports, said he could not comment directly on the case.

"All I can tell you is we can't confirm or deny any particular report concerning Mr Johnson or any other athlete," he said from Ottawa. "I can tell you that when a doping infraction has been determined by the CCES ... we do inform the sport and it is then a matter of public record.

"Mr Chrobotek is Mr Johnson's agent and if he is telling you those facts, then he must be speaking based on information he has and considers to be reliable."

That probably means that both parts of Johnson's urine sample have yet to be tested.

When the 'A' sample tests positive, the CCES informs the athlete and his or her sports federation. But a positive test is not made public until the 'B' sample is tested.

Diuretics are banned because they can mask performance-enhancing drugs.

"How can you cheat when you're not even allowed to run?" Chrobotek asked. "What is he cheating? It's like having five aces but you can't play in a card game."And I'm paying for the tests."

The Johnson camp is paying the Ottawa-based CCES for two tests a year while he continues his appeals to return to competition.

Johnson got the pills in the United States after experiencing stomach bloating, dizziness and other symptoms, according to Chrobotek who equated the feeling to that of a kidney stone.

"He was in excruciating pain," he said.

Asked why Johnson, given his doping test history, would take pills from a foreign pharmacist, the agent said he simply needed pain relief.

"I would have cut my arm off just to save myself from that pain," he said.

Chrobotek said the pills in question were obtained 18 months ago in Los Angeles where Johnson was doing an ESPN interview. The sprinter went to a pharmacist - "you know how expensive it is to go to a doctor in the States, especially in LA" - and was given pills to take care of the pain.

Johnson, who turns 38 on 30 December, took more of the pills about a year ago when he felt the same pain. A drug test in June was negative, Chrobotek said.He took another of the pills three weeks before the 7 October test.

Chrobotek said he initially dismissed a phone message from Athletics Canada that Johnson had tested positive as a crank call until he received a subsequent fax on 26 October from the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports confirming the matter.

"The information leaked out of somewhere," he said. "CCES advised this was kept confidential, that this finding does not yet constitute a doping infraction."

Chrobotek said that following the positive October test, Johnson got a doctor's prescription for the same medication to prove it was a legitimate treatment for the pain in question.

Johnson, who had his 100-meter world record and gold medal stripped at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, continues to train despite the fact his appeal to return to competition was rejected by the world governing body of track earlier this year. This summer he announced plans for an anti-drug foundation.

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