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IAAF: Relay team should lose gold

DOHA, Qatar -- The IAAF is recommending the U.S. women's 4x400 meter relay team at the 2004 Athens Olympics be stripped of its gold medal because qualifying runner Crystal Cox has admitted to doping.

The IOC has opened a formal investigation into the case, and the IAAF international athletics federation said Monday that under its rules the "U.S. relay team results will be disqualified."

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said this year that Cox admitted to using anabolic steroids and accepted a four-year suspension and disqualification of her results from 2001 to 2004. Her admission came after an investigation that was triggered by information from the BALCO case.

If the U.S. is stripped of its medal, Russia would move from silver to gold and Jamaica from bronze to silver.

Cox ran in the prelims for the American team led by Sanya Richards, who ran the final along with Dee Dee Trotter, Monique Henderson and Monique Hennegan.

Under international rules, an entire relay team can be disqualified because of the doping of one member, even an alternate.

IOC vice president Thomas Bach is heading a three-man panel into the case.

Past panel decisions have resulted in the IOC stripping national relay teams of medals retroactively -- including three U.S. teams from the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The IAAF deals with official results and placings at the Olympics but had no specific rule in place in 2000 for dealing with a relay team in the event of doping by a single member. However, at the Athens games four years later the IAAF had a rule specifying that the entire team should be disqualified and lose medals.

"It was always going to be clear to us," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said. "The rule was in effect in 2004."

The admission by Cox came after an investigation that was triggered by information that came from the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative case.

The IOC and IAAF are still waiting for the results of an appeals case involving U.S. women's relay runners from the 2000 Games.

The U.S. was stripped of the gold medal in the 4x400 relay and bronze in the 4x100 relay following Marion Jones' admission of doping. Jones returned her medals, but her teammates appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in an attempt to keep theirs. CAS is due to rule on the case this year.

The IOC also stripped the U.S. men's 4x400 relay team of their Sydney gold after Antonio Pettigrew admitted doping.

The IAAF also rejected a request from Justin Gatlin for an early return to competition following his four-year doping ban. Gatlin wanted to return early in the outdoor season because of "substantial assistance" to the IAAF in dealing with doping.

"It was rejected, I can confirm that," Davies said.

Gatlin will return July 24.