Saturday, August 2, 2008

U.S. Olympic Doping > U.S. > OlympicsBEIJING, China (AP) -- The International Olympic Committee has stripped gold medals from the U.S. men's 1,600-meter relay team that competed at the 2000 Games in the aftermath of Antonio Pettigrew's admission that he was doping at the time.

Saturday's decision was almost a formality after Pettigrew gave up his gold medal in June. He admitted in court in May that he used EPO and human growth hormone from 1997 to 2003.

Five of Pettigrew's teammates also lost their medals: Michael Johnson and twins Alvin and Calvin Harrison ran in the final, while Jerome Young and Angelo Taylor featured in the preliminaries.

It was Johnson's fifth gold medal of his stellar career. He has already said he was giving it back because he felt "cheated, betrayed and let down" by Pettigrew's testimony. Johnson still holds world records in the 200m and 400m.

Three of the four runners from the relay final have been tainted by drugs.

Alvin Harrison accepted a four-year ban in 2004 after admitting he used performance-enhancers, while his brother Calvin tested positive for a banned stimulant in 2003 and was suspended for two years. Young was banned for life for doping violations.

The IOC executive board disqualified the entire team, the fourth gold and sixth overall medal stripped from that U.S. track contingent in the past eight months for doping.

Three gold and two bronze were previously removed after Marion Jones confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs. Jones said she took the steroid known as "the clear"- also known as THG, or tetrahydrogestrinone- for two years beginning in 1999, according to a letter Jones sent to close family and friends.

Saturday's move came four months after the IOC stripped the gold from the U.S. women's 1,600m relay team and bronze from the women's 400m relay squad because of doping by Jones. She admitted last year that she used drugs at the time and returned her five medals, including gold in the 100m and 200m and bronze in the long jump.

The sprinter Justin Gatlin had his doping ban reduced, but not by enough to make him eligible to defend his Olympic 100-meter title this year.

The three-member panel unanimously ruled that Gatlin, 25, committed a doping offense when he tested positive for excessive testosterone in April 2006, but his first doping offense in 2001 troubled the group.

Gatlin, the gold medalist in the 100 meters at the 2004 Athens Games, is serving a four-year suspension for doping violations that expires in May 2010.

The ruling means Gatlin will have no immediate chance to regain his world record in the 100 meters. He shared the record of 9.77 seconds with Asafa Powell of Jamaica. Powell has improved the record, finishing in 9.74 seconds last September.

Gatlin has said he does not know how steroids got into his system before the April 2006 test.


Meanwhile, swimmer Jessica Hardy withdrew from the U.S. Olympic team on Friday, four weeks after testing positive for a low level of clenbuterol, a prohibited anabolic agent, at the Olympic trials on July 4.

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