Basketball great Diana Taurasi tested positive for modafinil while playing in a professional women’s league in Turkey, the country’s federation said on Friday.
Neither her lawyer nor her team, Fenerbahce, would confirm that Taurasi tested positive for the stimulant, which has been involved in several major doping cases, including that of US sprinter Kelli White.
Modafinil is used to counter excessive sleepiness because of narcolepsy, shift-work sleep disorder or sleep apnea, according to the Web site for the prescription drug Provigil, which contains the substance.
The Turkish Basketball Federation statement cited a report from the lab at Hacettepe University and said: “The urine sample taken from Diana Taurasi as a part of the regular process, after a game between Istanbul University and Fenerbahce ... tested positive for modafinil, one of the illegal substances on WADA’s [World Anti-Doping Agency] banned stimulants list, according to preliminary test results.”
“We’re not going to confirm what the drug is,” said Taurasi’s lawyer, Howard Jacobs. “We’ll revisit it after the ‘B’ sample returns. They shouldn’t be speaking about it at all.”
White won the 100m and 200m races at the 2003 world championships in Paris, but both her medals were stripped after she tested positive for the stimulant.
Jacobs said Taurasi’s “A” sample came back positive last week and that the substance “was not a steroid or recreational drug.”
Taurasi has been provisionally suspended pending the testing of her “B” sample, sometime early next month. She has already missed three games with Fenerbahce. The team’s Web site said she and another player were asked to submit to a test on Nov. 13, following the game against Istanbul. It said they were selected as a result of a draw.
The other player tested negative.
Fenerbahce said Taurasi was upset that the doping claims broke before the testing process was finalized.
“She is extremely disturbed that her right to confidentiality has been breached and doping claims have been made even before the results of her test are out,” the team’s Web site said.
If the “B” sample comes back positive, it could put her 2012 Olympics status with the US national basketball team in jeopardy.
She has helped the team win gold medals at the past two Olympics and was the leading scorer at the women’s world championships, which the Americans won in early October.
The International Olympic Committee bars any athlete given a doping penalty of six months or more from competing in the next games.
“At this point we’re aware of the situation and we’re monitoring things and letting the process take its course,” USA Basketball spokesman Craig Miller said. “Until that happens we can’t comment.”
Taurasi’s test came to light two days after the top-ranked Huskies won their 89th straight game, surpassing the UCLA men’s winning streak from 1971 to 1974. Taurasi helped lead UConn to three straight national championships as well as 70 consecutive victories from 2001 to 2003. She was the AP Player of the Year in 2003.
UConn’s Geno Auriemma, who coached Taurasi and will lead the 2012 Olympic team, couldn’t be reached for comment by telephone on Friday.
At the WNBA All-Star game last summer, Taurasi said the grind of playing basketball continuously for seven straight years was beginning to wear on her. At the time, she indicated fatigue could eventually force her to skip either the WNBA or European seasons.