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Thursday, August 3, 2000

Reinstating drug cheat a dopey move

Sotomayor case could open floodgates, Canadian testing doc says


  The reinstatement of Cuban drug cheat Javier Sotomayor to the Sydney Olympics is a dose of insanity, an injection of stupidity, a prominent Canadian scientist charged yesterday.

 "I'm so mad I shouldn't talk to reporters," Dr. Christiane Ayotte said. "If this (interview) was in French, I would say much worse."

 The International Amateur Athletic Federation cut Sotomayor's drug suspension in half yesterday, allowing the two-time world high jump champion and 1992 Olympic gold medallist a chance to compete in Sydney.

 Sotomayor tested positive for cocaine at the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg. Cocaine is classified as a stimulant in Olympic sport.

 The IAAF cited "exceptional circumstances" for the decision, including Sotomayor's humanitarian work and the fact he has passed 300 drug tests during his career.

 "I am happy, but not totally satisfied," Sotomayor, 32, told The Associated Press outside the Karl Marx theatre in Havana before last night's ceremony for the Cuban athletes participating in this summer's games.

 "I want to keep trying to clean up my image," he said. "That is my goal."

 Sotomayor, the only jumper to clear eight feet, was stripped of his gold medal at the Pan Am Games. First place later was awarded to Canadians Mark Boswell and Kwaku Boateng.

 Ayotte, who heads the International Olympic Committee-approved lab in Montreal and is considered a top anti-doping scientist, said the ruling will open the flood gates to other dopers who want back into competition.

 The IAAF also opened the door for German runner Dieter Baumann to compete at Sydney. Baumann, who won the 5,000-metre title at the 1992 Olympics, was banned for two years last fall after testing positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone. His case was sent to arbitration by the IAAF and the athlete is free to compete until after the hearing, which probably will be held after the Olympics.

 "TRAGIC"

 Ayotte, whose lab found cocaine in Sotomayor's system, called the reinstatement "tragic."

 "And it's going to be a mess," she said.

 "What about all the other cases (before the IAAF)? What's the message here? If you're first in the world, it's okay to use drugs?

 "I'm very disappointed because, in the past, I was seriously behind the IAAF. I saw the IAAF taking a strong lead against doping. But now ... I'm not discouraged, I'm mad."

 Ayotte is particularly incensed that Sotomayor was allowed back despite the fact he never came clean about his drug use and accused Ayotte and her lab of sabotaging his urine sample.

 "He tried to exonerate himself by making serious accusations against a respected scientist," Ayotte said. "I guess the answer is nobody cares about (us), and millions of people love Sotomayor."