Games win no medals for organisation as gold winner's positive test crowns chaos

If British athletics felt embarrassed at the less than smooth running of last week's grand prix meeting at Crystal Palace, spare a thought for the organisers of the Pan American Games here.

While London officials were left red-faced by the failure of timing equipment for the showpiece men's 100 metres race, administrators here have watched a succession of crises ruin the Dominican Republic's rare appearance in the sporting limelight.

After problems with faulty computer systems, poor facilities, lax security and striking officials, the Games took another turn for the worse yesterday as a gold medal-winning athlete tested positive for drugs.

Letitia Vriesde, of Surinam, will lose her 800m gold medal after testing positive for caffeine. The Games president, Mario Vazquez Rana, observed: "She would have needed to drink five gallons of coffee for that level of caffeine to be found in her system."

The Games began as a comedy of errors and carried on that way. The results service kept crashing at the fly-infested media centre, spectators complained of waterless toilet facilities, and athletes and fans suffered in unventilated arenas.

Competitors endured sauna-like conditions in the gymnastics, basketball and volleyball venues, which do not have air conditioning despite the heat and humidity. Security fears abounded, with the public allowed to take firearms into venues by showing their gun permits.

There were problems for Brazil's basketball players when they protested that a scoreboard error had cost them a place in the women's final. They claimed that the scoreboard had wrongly awarded an extra point to the United States at the death, which tied the match at 62-62 and sent the two sides into extra time. The US went on to win 75-69.

Brazil were still waiting for an answer to their appeal when their bronze medal match against Canada was due to start. They eventually agreed to play after the organisers rejected their appeal, but Canada then walked off the court, claiming the bronze medal on a walkover, before the referees decided the game should go ahead. Brazil won 57-46 to claim bronze, but were still bitter. "This is incompetence of the highest degree," said their coach, Antonio Carlos Barbosa.

The football programme also started late after the referees walked out in protest at being paid their daily allowances in Dominican pesos, not US dollars.

In tennis, the former world No 1 Marcelo Rios complained: "What happened here does not happen anywhere else in the world. There were no towels and everything was a mess."

For squash referees Jose Gomez and Pablo Montoya, their first task turned into a four-hour odyssey. The two, along with Colombia's men's team, spent hours searching for the site. The problem? The squash competition is being played at two separate sites ­ both named "The Body Shop Gym". "I guess we showed up at the wrong one," Gomez said. "No one told us there were two of them."

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