Tuesday, September 26|
Raducan tests positive for stimulant
SYDNEY, Australia -- This isn't a sinister case of an
athlete pumping herself full of steroids or human growth hormone.
Andreea Raducan isn't Ben Johnson. At 4-foot-10 and 82 pounds, her
slight body is hardly bulging with muscles.
She had a fever and a cold. She wanted to feel better. So the
Romanian team doctor gave her Nurofen, an over-the-counter
medication for colds and flu that anyone can walk into a pharmacy
She swallowed two little pills, and now she has one gold medal
instead of two.
The 16-year-old was stripped of her gold from the women's
all-around Tuesday after she tested positive for pseudoephedrine, a
banned stimulant. She is the first gymnast ever to be stripped of a
medal because of a drug violation, and Romanian Olympic Committee
president Ion Tiriac said he would appeal to the Court of
Arbitration for Sport.
The Romanian team doctor who gave Raducan the drug was expelled
from the games and suspended through the 2002 Winter Games in Salt
Lake and 2004 Summer Games in Athens.
"We feel we have no choice," said Francois Carrard, the
International Olympic Committee's director general. "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."
Raducan was allowed to keep her gold from the team competition
and silver in the vault final. But losing the all-around gold was
crushing for the wispy teen, whose dark coloring and pixieish charm
evoked memories of Nadia Comaneci, Romania's last Olympic darling.
"I think she's probably devastated right now. She's 16. She
doesn't know what's happening," said Comaneci, who now runs a gym
in Norman, Okla., with her husband, 1984 Olympian Bart Conner.
"She's a victim of a mistake of the doctor. It's not the fault of
Even the IOC acknowledged that Raducan's case is not like most
others. She took a common cold medicine, and it provided "no
competitive advantage at that competition," Carrard said. The
International Gymnastics Federation unanimously decided not to
punish Raducan further, saying in a statement that taking her medal
"was punishment enough for an athlete who was innocent in this
Raducan's gold ended up with teammate Simona Amanar, whose
silver went to yet another Romanian, Maria Olaru.
Liu Xuan of China, who now wins the bronze medal in the
all-around, couldn't make sense of what occurred.
"I thought this was impossible because in gymnastics, we rely
on technique to complete our moves," Li said. "It's not possible
to rely on drugs or strength to complete them. You have to rely
entirely on skill. So I just didn't think it was possible."
Romania has waited 24 years for a gymnast who could captivate
the world like Comaneci, who scored the first perfect 10 at the
Montreal Olympics in 1976.
The Romanians have won dozens of Olympic medals since then, but
could never capture the all-around, the biggest prize on sport's
Performing to "Riverdance" on Thursday, Raducan pranced across
the floor, a wide, infectious smile on her face. She looked almost
like Peter Pan as she tumbled, flying across the floor with ease.
When she finished, she ran to coach Octavian Belu and climbed onto
his shoulders, waving and blowing kisses to the crowd.
It wasn't just her presence on the floor that charmed fans.
Raducan, who turns 17 on Saturday, has a wonderful, childlike
naivete. When she came into the news conference after winning the
all-around, she perched at the edge of Olaru's chair instead of
taking the seat reserved for her at the middle of the table.
Told the place of honor was hers, the gold medalist said she
thought it was for her coach.
"It's like having a dream, a nice dream," Raducan said then.
"I still feel like I'm in this dream."
That feeling didn't last long.
All medalists are tested for drugs, and Raducan's sample after
the all-around came back positive. The level of drug in her urine
was 90 nanograms per milliliter, more than three times greater than
the 24 nanograms per milliliter allowed by the IOC.
She also was tested after winning a silver in the vault Sunday.
That sample was negative. She was not tested after the team
competition Sept. 19.
Whether the doctor, Ioachim Oana, knew he'd prescribed something
that included a banned substance isn't certain. The Romanians
But when Oana filled out the form detailing medications Raducan
was taking, he included the cold medicine.
"She wasn't taking this to try to enhance her performance,"
said Paul Ziert, who was Conner's coach and now the publisher of
International Gymnast magazine. "She was trying to make herself
healthy so she could perform at a normal level, which she did."
The gymnastics federation imposed additional sanctions on Oana,
barring him from participating in the European championships and
any FIG-sponsored international events for the next four years.
The Romanians were notified of Raducan's positive test Monday.
She was allowed to compete in the event finals that day, but didn't
have her usual spark.
On the floor exercise, where she's the reigning world champion,
she stumbled out of a tumbling pass, almost falling on a move she
usually lands with precision. She finished seventh out of eight
Afterward, a teary-eyed Raducan appeared before the IOC's
"We consider it was an accident," said Prince Alexandre de
Merode, the IOC drug chief. "She is not directly responsible. The
fault falls with the medical doctor. But we have rules and we have
to apply the rules."
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
In addition, two other non-medalists, a hammer thrower from
Belarus and a rower from Latvia, were expelled after positive drug
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.
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