Fencing: Italian fencer Baldini dropped after drugs test

The fencer Andrea Baldini, a leading Italian gold medal hope for the Beijing Olympics, has failed a drug test, the Italian Olympic Committee (coni), said yesterday. The 22-year-old, who won the silver medal in the foil at the 2006 and 2007 World Championships, tested positive for the diuretic furosemide during the European Fencing Championship in Kiev last month, a coni spokesman said.

Baldini, ranked No 1 in the world, has been suspended from the team but could be restored for the Games should a second sample prove negative. The president of the Italian fencing federation, Giorgio Scarso, said that the drug detected was used in hospitals for cardiac arrest, and is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency because it can be used as a masking agent for other drugs.

"He [Baldini] said he had taken an antibiotic but thought it was safe," Scarso said. "He told me he hasn't taken any [banned] substances."

"The medic had prescribed an antibiotic, which does not contain this substance, is allowed and was declared at the time of the urine test. He doesn't know how to explain this result."

"I'm disconcerted, sad and it's an ugly thing for the world of fencing," Scarso added. Federation doctor Antonio Fiore described Baldini's mood as "very frustrated and distressed" after also speaking to him on the telephone.

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