Romanian gymnast stripped of gold

[LatelineNews: 2000-9-26] SYDNEY, Australia - Andreea Raducan, the pint-sized Romanian gymnast whose looks and talent remind many of Olympic gamin Nadia Comaneci, was stripped of her all-around gold medal Tuesday (Monday EDT) after testing positive for a banned drug.

The Romanian team doctor who gave the 16-year-old Raducan the drug in two cold medicine pills was expelled from the games and suspended through the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake and 2004 summer games in Athens.

Raducan took Nurofen, a common over-the-counter medicine because she had ``a bit of a fever and flu,'' said Prince Alexandre de Merode, IOC drug chief. But the drug contains pseudoephedrine, which is on the IOC's list of banned stimulants.

``We consider it was an accident. The medication was prescribed by the team doctor,'' de Merode said. ``She is not directly responsible. The fault falls with the medical doctor.''

``But we have rules and we have to apply the rules,'' he said.

Ion Tiriac, the Romanian National Olympic Committee president, said he would appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He declined to comment further.

Raducan is the first gymnast to be stripped of a medal because of a drug violation, and is the second athlete at these games to lose a gold. She is the sixth positive drug case at the Sydney Games.

Raducan was allowed to keep her other medals, a gold from the team competition and a silver from the vault. IOC executive board member Anita DeFrantz said she also could remain in the Olympic village with her team for the rest of the games.

The gymnastic competition has ended, so Raducan has no more events.

``We're not looking at whether there's intention or not. It's the presence that constitutes doping,'' said Francois Carrard, IOC director general.

``We feel we have no choice,'' Carrard said. ``It's tough, but that's what it's all about. In the fight against doping, we have to be tough and be blind to emotions and feelings.''

He also said the drug Raducan took provided ``no competitive advantage at that competition.''

Raducan was tested twice, once after the all-around Thursday and again after she won a silver on the vault. The level of drug in her urine was 90 nanograms per milliliter. The allowed amount is 24 nanograms per milliliter

She tested negative after the vault. Carrard said Raducan was not tested after the Romanians won the team gold last Tuesday.

Romanian officials were told Monday afternoon of the positive test, Tiriac said, but Raducan competed anyway in the individual floor exercise final that night. She finished seventh out of eight.

With Raducan's disqualification, another Romanian, Simona Amanar, gets the gold in the individual all-around competition, and teammate Maria Olaru goes from bronze to silver. Liu Xuan of China, the original fourth-place finisher, now gets the bronze medal.

With her dark hair and eyes and pint-sized frame, Raducan has drawn comparisons to Comaneci, who at the Montreal Olympics in 1976 became the first gymnast to score a perfect 10.

In Sydney, Raducan became the first Romanian to win the all-around title since Comaneci. The Romanians also had the first sweep of the all-around since the former Soviet Union did it in 1960.

Team coach Octavian Belu threatened to withdraw the whole team from the games, the private Romanian news agency Mediafax reported. He did not attend news conferences following Monday's competition.

Raducan is the fourth athlete to be stripped of a medal because of drugs. Three Bulgarian weightlifters lost their medals, including Izabela Dragneva, the gold medalist in the women's 105-pound event.

Sevdalin Minchev lost his bronze in the men's 137-pound class, and Ivan Ivanov lost his silver medal in the 123-pound class.

In addition, two other non-medalists, a hammer thrower from Belarus and a rower from Latvia, have been expelled for positive drug tests.

This isn't the first drug controversy for the Romanian team in Sydney. Two weightlifters were expelled for failing pre-game, out-of-competition tests. The entire weightlifting team faced being kicked out, but paid a $50,000 fine to allow the ``clean'' weightlifters to stay. AP