Wed, Dec 20, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Sportstars and disasters

CHEATS AND FEATS The year in sport will probably be remembered as much for the number of high-profile doping scandals as for the performances stars delivered


Justin Gatlin and Floyd Landis made headlines for their sporting achievements this year. They were bigger news when they were caught in the year's biggest doping scandals.

Gatlin, who equaled the world record in the 100m, and Landis, who won the Tour de France, had positive tests for testosterone revealed within 48 hours of each other at the end of July.

The Americans were the tip of an expanding range of collared takers of banned drugs.

For the first time, a professional darts player, Britain's Robbie Green (marijuana) tested positive. There was also Australian rugby star Wendell Sailor (cocaine), IBF featherweight boxing champ Orlando Salido (nandrolone), Mexican compatriot and WBC light flyweight champ Omar Nino (methamphetamine), and Olympic discus champion Natalya Sadova of Russia (methandienone).

Also caught was a horse, Deep Impact (ipratropium), the Japanese Triple Crown winner, and then-16-year-old Bulgarian tennis player Sesil Karatantcheva (nandrolone). The most bizarre case was the Frenchman who spiked the water bottles of his children's tennis opponents, leading to the death of a 25-year-old. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Three-time Olympic champ Marion Jones tested positive for EPO in the first sample but was then cleared, and her former track coach Trevor Graham remained under investigation for several doping violations. Two Pakistan cricketers were busted, banned and then reinstated, and a Spanish doctor allegedly provided doping material to elite cyclists and possibly others.

Gatlin had become a spokesman of drug-free competition. The Olympic and world 100m champ equaled the world record of 9.77 seconds in Qatar in May, and was nearing a showdown with Asafa Powell, the original record-holder who equaled it twice more this year.

But it was announced Gatlin tested positive for testosterone and other steroids in April. He is appealing an eight-year suspension, and has promised to cooperate with other investigations by doping authorities.

That cooperation is likely to be bad news for Graham, many of whose star athletes have been suspended or investigated for doping, including Tim Montgomery, Dennis Mitchell, Jerome Young, and Michelle Collins.

Graham was indicted by a grand jury last month on three counts of making false statements to US federal agents. He pleaded not guilty.

Jones tested positive for EPO in June at the US championships, but her "B" sample was clean and she was cleared.

"That's why there is a B sample," World Anti-Doping Agency director general David Howman said. "She's been exonerated."

Landis is still hoping he can prove the French lab that tested his samples made a mistake.

He won the first Tour de France without retired seven-time champ Lance Armstrong, then officials announced Landis tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone following a remarkable comeback in the Alps which vaulted him back into title contention.

After initially excusing the testosterone by claiming he'd been drinking the night before, and had naturally high levels in his system, he blamed alleged errors by the Chatenay-Malabry laboratory.

"Even the best people make mistakes," Landis said in a French television interview. "I can't say that the lab is always a bad lab, but I can say that in this case it made some mistakes ... I did not take testosterone."

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