INDIANAPOLIS — The biggest drug bust in modern pentathlon history occurred last year at the World Championships in Montecatini, Italy, where 12 competitors tested positive for banned substances.
But only 11 of the athletes, including Blair Driggs and Lori McNeil of the United States, received 30-month suspensions from the International Modern Pentathlon and Biathlon Union (UIMPB).
Sweden's Thor Henning, UIMPB general secretary, said Friday at a congress in Moulins, France, that no action was taken against the 12th athlete because the paper-work accompanying his positive urine sample was lost.
"We don't have any proof, and as long as we don't have any proof, we can't accuse him," Henning told Reuters.
The 12th pentathlete later was identified by Danish official Eivind-Bo Sorenson on the floor of the congress as Rob Stull of the United States, who was seventh in the World Championships last year and won the gold medal last week at the Pan American Games. He also is entered in fencing's team epee competition, which begins today.
"This is unbelievable," Stull, 25, said Monday when asked about Sorenson's allegation. "I was tested at the World Championships, but I never heard anything about testing positive. I don't know why I haven't heard anything about this."
Stull excused himself to make a hurried telephone call to Bill Hanson, executive secretary of U.S. Modern Pentathlon Assn. (USMPA) in San Antonio.
"I got a call last week saying a resolution had been put forward naming Rob," Hanson said when contacted by a reporter. "But there was no evidence for any of it. There was a lot of hearsay and rumor. It didn't even come to a vote. It's a dead issue.
"It's tough to have something like this brought up, especially when you consider the way it was done. We don't know what the motives were. Rob was having a good competitive season, and, suddenly, his name is dragged through the mud."
Controversy is hardly new to Stull, who is from Clarksburg, Md., and attends the University of Texas in Austin.
In 1984, after winning the Olympic trials, he was suspended by the USMPA for cheating. USMPA officials claimed that two other athletes, in conspiracy with Stull, allowed him to beat them in fencing so that he would have a better chance to earn a berth on the U.S. Olympic team. Stull appealed and was reinstated to the team, which won a silver medal in Los Angeles.
In 1986, Stull tested positive for a banned substance at the national meet. But the USMPA again cleared him when it was revealed that the drug was an over-the-counter cold capsule.
Stull's case was strengthened because the banned substance in the cold capsule was a stimulant, rarely, if ever, used by modern pentathlon athletes.
More prominent in the sport are sedatives, which relax the athletes' nerves in shooting competition. Most of the athletes testing positive at last year's World Championships were found to have used a drug designed for pregnant women.
The two suspended U.S. athletes have appealed.
"I think it may have been because of that incident with the cold capsule that his name came up this time," Hanson said. "There was a still a lot of controversy about that when we got to the last World Championships.
"Granted, he's been involved in a lot of controversies. But that's what happens when you're as good as he is. There's a lot of conjecture in this sport."
Stull said he has been asked to submit urine samples more times than he can remember this year, but that increased testing has not eliminated suspicion among athletes.
"I shot 194 (out of 200) earlier this year," he said. "When I got back, the other guys asked, 'How'd you do that? Were you tested?' If a guy shoots 197, nobody thinks he did it straight."
Of the previous charges against him, Stull said the one in 1984 for cheating has caused the most trauma. He said the accusations against him were made by two athletes who failed to make the team.
He said it is only because of the slight he felt in the Olympics that he has continued to compete.
Even though he won his appeal after a 13-hour hearing, he was relegated to a reserve role in Los Angeles. He was the fourth man on a team that could enter only three in the competition.
"I made one big mistake," Stull said. "On the morning after the hearing, my attorney called and asked if I wanted to get a restraining order to make sure they (USMPA officials) didn't mess around with me. I said no, that I'd had enough of it. I wanted to put it behind me. What they did stunk."
Stull sued the USMPA for defamation of character, settling out of court two weeks ago for legal fees.