Saturday, February 9, 2002
Bobsledder upset with teammate's suspension
By Jim Caple
SALT LAKE CITY -- At what was expected to be a routine news conference with the U.S. bobsled team Saturday afternoon, Todd Hays unloaded a backpack and then unloaded on the IOC for a two-year ban on competition for his former brakeman, Pavle Jovanovic.
Hays, who has a good chance to end a 46-year drought for the United States in the two-man and four-man bobsled, expressed anger and frustration while complaining that athletes simply don't know which dietary supplements contain banned substances.
"The IOC has failed to educate us on this," he said. "They apparently tested several hundred supplements and found 25 percent of them contain banned supplements. The only problem is, they won't release the names of the (supplement manufacturer)."
Jovanovic initially got a nine-month suspension in late December after testing positive for the steroid 19-norandrosterone at the U.S. trials, but the International Court for Arbitration of Sport extended the ban to two years when he tried to appeal the ban on grounds he unknowingly ingested the substance in a dietary supplement.
The ruling body said it was negligent of Jovanovic, perhaps purposely so, not to know the well-publicized risks of taking such supplements. It also said there was no evidence any of the supplements Jovanovic took contained the banned substance, and suggested it might have been injected.
Still, Hays insists Jovanovic is a victim of nothing more than bad supplements. To emphasize his frustration, Hayes dumped nutritional bars and bottled drinks onto the table in front of him, saying they are distributed free in the athletes village.
"I find that to be quite ironic that these people will stand on this soap box and preach about the integrity of these athletes, when if you slip them a few dollars as an Olympic sponsor ... " Hays said, his voice breaking. "There is no amount of angry or inflammatory statements I can say that will bring Pavle back. If there is, I would be on this table screaming and asking where is (former IOC chief) Dick Pound when all this is being fed to us constantly."
However, Hays acknowledged upon questioning that he was not aware if any of the items he dumped contained banned substances. USOC spokesperson Rich Wanninger said they did not and took exception to Hays' claims that athletes are kept ignorant of what they can and cannot take.
Wanninger said the USOC has fully educated athletes about the risks with nutritional supplements and that Jovanovic should have known better. He said athletes can always call the USOC and find out whether a product contains a banned substance, despite Hays' exaggerated claim that athletes can't go into Starbucks and have a coffee out of fear they might test positive for too much caffeine (Hayes admitted it would take at least 12 cups just before a test to cause a problem).
"I am disturbed they do not want to learn what is going on," Wanninger said. "They have perpetuated the same line throughout this case."
Wanninger also said the amount of 19-norandrosterone in Jovanovic was six times the maximum limit.
"People need to take responsibility," he said. "If an athlete takes something and they test positive for it, we'd like him to say, 'Yes, I did it.' "
Wanninger expressed some sympathy with Hays on the issue of dietary supplements that might contain banned substances.
"We're talking to the IOC, but they say they haven't finished their studies," he said. "It is difficult."
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com