CAS returns Olympic bronze to cyclist

Updated: October 20, 2005, 2:47 PM ET
Associated Press

Erin Mirabella got her Olympic medal after some controversy, and may lose it in the same fashion.

The American cyclist, who learned at the closing ceremonies of last summer's Athens Games that she was placed third in the women's track points race following the disqualification of a Colombian competitor, is apparently about to have that bronze medal taken away.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, ruled Thursday that the Colombian cyclist, Maria Luisa Calle, should be restored as the bronze winner because she did not take the banned stimulant she tested positive for in Athens.

Mirabella and American cycling officials sounded baffled and stunned by the news.

"Nobody has told me anything," Mirabella told The AP in a telephone interview from her California home. "I've seen the articles that are out there. I've heard nothing from USA Cycling, the International Olympic Committee, nobody. Nobody has contacted me and I don't know what is happening."

Calle's third-place finish made her the first Colombian to win an Olympic cycling medal. Days later, the IOC disqualified her for taking the prohibited stimulant heptaminol, found in a post-race urine sample.

Calle denied taking the stimulant, insisting she took an anti-migraine pill called Neo-Saldina hours before the race. She blamed that drug, prescribed by a team doctor, for the heptaminol reading.

"I'm nervous and very happy that I will finally receive the medal that I fought so hard to win in the Olympics," the 36-year-old Calle said in her hometown of Medellin.

CAS said Neo-Saldina contains isometheptene, a substance which transforms into heptaminol during laboratory analyses. Isometheptene was not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency for the Athens Games.

"We respect the CAS decision," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said. "The IOC had acted at the time based on advice from WADA that the substance [heptaminol] was prohibited."

The issue will be discussed at next week's IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne. The board is expected to ratify the CAS decision and restore Calle's medal.

In September 2004, USA Cycling officials surprised Mirabella with the medal while she vacationed with her husband in Breckenridge, Colo. The formal presentation came at the national track championships in Texas later that month.

It remained in her possession Thursday, and in a letter to readers of her Web site last year when she detailed the controversy surrounding the disqualification debacle, she said "No one can take that away from me."

USA Cycling spokesman Andy Lee said the nation's governing body had not been formally told that Mirabella must forfeit the medal. A call placed the U.S. Olympic Committee's offices was not immediately returned.

"Right now, I think I want to get the facts," Mirabella said. "I don't want to say too much until we get more information. I need to get some real information."

If Mirabella eventually loses the medal, it will mean the United States won only three in Athens, matching what the American bike contingent did in Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney four years later.

Mirabella's was the only U.S. medal from a track race; the others were claimed by Tyler Hamilton (gold), Dede Barry (silver), and Bobby Julich (bronze) in the road race time trials.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press