Romania Returns Medals In Protest

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Romania has returned two all-around gymnastics medals in protest of the decision to strip Andreaa Raducan of her all-around gold because she took a banned stimulant before competing, Romanian national television reported Tuesday.

"The gold, silver and bronze medals have been returned although initially (coach) Octavian Belu favored keeping the gold and silver medals which the Romanians would have won anyway," Romanian national television reported from Sydney.

Romania swept the women's all-around, with Simona Amanar taking silver and Maria Olaru bronze in addition to Raducan's gold.

Raducan, who also won a team gold and individual silver medal in the vault, has filed an appeal to get the all-around medal back.

The International Olympic Committee revoked the gymnast's medal in the women's all-around competition after she tested positive for the stimulant, which Romanian coaches said was in an over-the-counter cold medication the team doctor gave the 16-year-old.

A hearing is scheduled Wednesday before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Meanwhile, world shot-put champion C.J. Hunter says attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. will be representing him in his battle against doping charges.

The IOC announced on Tuesday that the American athlete—husband and coach of sprinter Marion Jones—has tested positive four times this year for steroid use.

Cochran was nearby while a teary Hunter denied those charges Tuesday at a packed news conference at the Sydney Olympics. But Cochran said he was there as a friend.

"I'm going to defend myself vigorously," Hunter said as Cochran watched from the wings. "We've put together a great team and I'm quite positive that when everything is said and done, I'll be exonerated."

Hunter, who has a knee injury and is not competing in Sydney, told reporters he couldn't explain why he'd tested positive for a banned steroid. But his nutritionist speculated the positive tests may have been caused by an iron supplement the American had been taking.

Jones appeared at the same news conference, saying she supports her husband.

"I have total and complete respect and believe that the legal system will do what's needed to do to clear his name," Jones said.

The Olympic 100-meter champion also asked the media to leave the couple alone so they can concentrate on Jones' goal of winning four more gold medals.

The normally gruff 330-pound shot putter nearly broke down several times during his comments to reporters as he said he didn't know why he had tested positive at the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway, on July 28.

Later in the session, Hunter joined his nutritionist in blaming an iron supplement that may have been contaminated. His wife had not taken the supplement, Hunter said.

Raducan and Hunter's were the latest cases of alleged drug use at he Sydney Games, where a crackdown on doping is a major subplot.

So far, five athletes have been thrown out f the games for failing drug tests, including Bulgarian weightlifters and a Latvian rower.

Wednesday (late Tuesday EDT), allegations against yet another athlete emerged, with the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) saying world champion hammer thrower Mihaela Melinte of Romania has been suspended after she tested positive for a banned substance.

IAAF spokesman Giorgio Reineri told reporters Melinte had been asked for an explanation after two doping samples tested positive. The test took place before the Olympics but it was not clear whether Melinte was in Sydney.

Other athletes from Romania, Norway and China were sent home before the opening ceremonies for failing pre-games testing.

But even the Olympic committee acknowledged Raducan's case is not like other doping cases and that the cold medicine provided no competitive advantage. But the IOC's director general says they felt they had no choice.

The president of Romania's National Olympic Committee says he's going to "fight all the way for that little girl."

Raducan is the first gymnast ever to be stripped of a medal because of a drug violation.

Her doctor, who prescribed the cough medicine, was expelled from the Sydney games and banned from the 2002 and 2004 Olympics.

The decision to strip the medal of the Romanian, who's drawn comparisons to Nadia Comaneci for her looks and talent, was made by the IOC's executive board, following the recommendation from its medical commission.

Frank Shorter, chairman of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said he strongly supported the IOC's decision to take back Raducan's medal.

"You simply have to take a consistent, hard line with regard to positive tests on performance-enhancing drugs," Shorter said Tuesday on CBS' The Early Show.

Doping had been a divisive issue leading up to the Sydney games, with the U.S. government criticizing the IOC for not doing enough to prevent the use of performance enhancing drugs.

The same day the IOC revealed the test results for Raducan, the United States Olympic Committee announced that when the winter Olympics come to Salt Lake City in 2002, American—not Olympic—officials will conduct drug tests.

Just weeks before the 2000 Olympics, a White House-funded study concluded that the prevalence of doping is due to the lack of an effective policing system and the large sums poured into the Olympics by corporate sponsors.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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