Steroid detected also cost Johnson gold in '88

Updated: August 23, 2004, 7:57 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- It was a defining and uplifting moment at the Summer Games -- women competing at Ancient Olympia for the first time in history. Then along came a modern-day scourge -- drugs.

A Russian shot putter tested positive for steroids after winning the first women's gold medal at the hallowed site where the Olympics were born in 776 B.C., international and Russian officials said Sunday.

In the latest doping scandal to hit the games, Irina Korzhanenko could be stripped of the gold and sent home in disgrace.

"Nobody can believe that this is actually happening," Russian Olympic Committee spokesman Gennady Shvets said.

News of Korzhanenko's positive test came on the same day a Greek weightlifter, Leonidas Sampanis, became the first athlete of the Athens Games to be stripped of a medal for a doping offense. Sampanis lost his bronze medal in the 137-pound (62kg) category after testing positive for testosterone.

So far, nine weightlifters have failed drug tests. A Kenyan boxer was also sent home for using drugs. With a week left in the games, including track and field events, more positives were likely.

"The testing is more extensive and more comprehensive, so you'd expect we would catch more athletes that are cheating," Dick Pound, the World Anti-Doping Agency chief, told The Associated Press. "It increases the confidence in the authenticity of the competition if we are taking people out who cheated.

"I think drawing attention to this problem is good. If you have a games where you catch a lot of people, that's fine. That's the message we want to send: If you want to cheat, don't come here."

Referring to the high number of positives in weightlifting, Pound said WADA and the IOC should put pressure on the international federation to act. The federation says it is cracking down, weeding out cheaters before they compete.

Korzhanenko, who served a previous two-year drug suspension, tested positive for stanozolol after Wednesday's competition, Shvets said. Stanozolol is the same steroid that cost Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson his gold medal in the 100 meters at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Korzhanenko's backup sample also came back positive, the Russian committee said. The positive test was also confirmed by two senior International Olympic Committee officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Korzhanenko, 30, will face a hearing before an IOC disciplinary commission. If found guilty, she would be disqualified and expelled from the games by the IOC executive board.

The gold would go to Cuba's Yumileidi Cumba Jay. Germany's Nadine Kleinert would move up to silver, and Russia's Svetlana Krivelyova to bronze.

The shot put was held at Ancient Olympia, about 200 miles southwest of Athens, two days before the start of track and field in Olympic Stadium. It was the first time women have competed at the site; the ancient Olympics were for men only.

"It shows that you can't go to Ancient Olympia and screw around and expect to get away with it," Pound said.

Korzhanenko won with a throw of 69 feet, 1 (21.06 meters) -- the first throw over 21 meters in four years.

Another female shot putter, Uzbekistan's Olga Shchukina, tested positive in a pre-event screening for the steroid clenbuterol. She finished 19th and last in her qualifying group and was expelled from the games Friday.

In 1999, Korzhanenko was stripped of the silver medal at the world indoor championships for a doping violation, and she was given a two-year suspension that kept her out of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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