IOC panel recommends German wrestler be stripped of gold medal

IOC medical officials today recommended that German freestyle wrestler Alexander Leipold be stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for the steroid nandrolone at the Sydney Games.

IOC medical officials today recommended that German freestyle wrestler Alexander Leipold be stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for the steroid nandrolone at the Sydney Games.

Leipold appeared at a hearing of the International Olympic Committee medical commission today, which was investigating two positive drug cases in wrestling from the final weekend of the games.

If the ruling IOC executive board, as expected, endorses the medical panel's recommendation, Leipold would become the third athlete from the Sydney Olympics to lose a gold medal for a doping offense.

His gold medal would go to American Brandon Slay, of Amarillo, Texas, who lost 4-0 to Leipold in the final of the 76-kg division.

South Korea's Moon Eui Jae would move up from the bronze medal to silver, while Turkey's Adem Bereket would go from fourth to third.

The other wrestler accused of doping was Oyungbileg Purevbaatar, of Mongolia, who tested positive for the diuretic furosemide after finishing fifth in the 58-kg class.

The IOC panel recommended that he be disqualified and his results wiped off the books.

U.S. Olympic officials applauded the decision to recommend that Leipold's gold medal be withdrawn.

"We're pleased for Brandon, who lost a very tough match in Sydney to begin with and who we felt was the best freestyle wrestler in the world at that weight," said Mike Moran, a U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman.

Slay would be the second U.S. athlete to win a gold because of a drug disqualification in Sydney. Tara Nott of Colorado Springs became the first American to win a gold in weightlifting in 40 years when Bulgarian Izabela Dragneva was disqualified after winning the 105-pound class.

"The future of the games depends on this continued tough stance so that every athlete knows that he is operating on a level playing field in the most important competition in their lives," Moran said.

Jim Scherr, executive director of U.S.A. Wrestling, said, "It is pretty much a routine decision by the IOC executive board and Slay will get the gold now.

"Obviously it's a very bad thing for Leipold. We've known him for a long time. He took some shortcuts and cheated. We thought Brandon was very deserving."

Prince Alexandre de Merode, chairman of the IOC medical commission, said Leipold's sample showed 20 nanograms of nandrolone per milliliter of urine. The established limit if 2 nanograms per milliliter

"When you find 10 times more than the fixed limit we believe the case is clear," de Merode said. "The presence of the drug is clear. We heard the German delegation and have spoken with the athlete in an open way.

"The decision we made is to propose to the executive board the disqualification of the athlete, who will be asked to give back the gold medal."

De Merode said the recommendations would be made directly to IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, who was traveling Monday to Sydney for the Paralympics.

He said Samaranch will arrange a teleconference with the IOC's four vice presidents, or the entire 15-member executive board, to act on the two cases. This is expected to take place within a few days.

With his wife crying by his side, Leipold spoke to reporters after emerging from the IOC hearing.

He said he had no idea how he could have tested positive for nandrolone, an anabolic steroid which has produced a spate of drug scandals around the world in recent years.

"It's not the kind of drug you take for wrestling," he said. "I don't wrestle with power but with tactic and technique. ...

"There are a lot of competitors, sportsmen, who have this problem. Nobody know what happens, what has nandrolone in it."

"I was tested before at the end of August and was clean, negative. I know I was the favorite for the (gold) medal. I won the world championships three times. It's terrible, it's not logical for my sport.

"You wrestle for 26 years and you make medals step by step. In Germany I'm always tested out of competition. Every time, I'm clean."

Asked about the prospect of having the gold medal taken away, Leipold said, "I'm hopeful because I don't take anything, but they have their rules."

The Mongolian wrestler, Purevbaatar, did not attend the hearing and was not represented by anyone. De Merode said Purevbaatar sent a statement saying he did use furosemide, but a month before the games.

The two positive results were confirmed the day after the games ended.

While the IOC medical commission usually judges drug cases within a few days, it put off action because the athletes had already left and were not available for a hearing.

Five athletes were stripped of medals in Sydney, including two gold medalists.

Romanian gymnast Andreea Raducan lost her all-around gold after testing positive for pseudoephedrine, apparently from cold pills, while Bulgarian women's weightlifter Izabela Dragneva had her gold taken away after her urine sample showed traces of furosemide, a banned diuretic.

Two men's Bulgarian weightlifters lost silver and bronze medals after testing positive for furosemide, and an Armenian weightlifter was stripped of a bronze for nandrolone.

The two wrestling cases brought to 11 the number of positive tests reported by the IOC during the Sydney Games - nine from in-competition drug controls and two from out-of-competition screening.

The 11 positives are the most at the Olympics since 12 were recorded at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

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