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Hunter Had Positive Drug Test

Track and field: Shotputter says he will defend himself. IOC drug chief accuses U.S. of cover-up dating back to 1988.


SYDNEY, Australia — World champion shotputter C.J. Hunter flunked a drug test earlier this year, track officials said in a statement issued today.

Hunter is not competing at the Sydney Olympics, where his wife, Marion Jones, is trying to win five gold medals.

The International Amateur Athletic Federation statement said only that Hunter "tested positive for a banned substance." Without naming a particular athlete, International Olympic Committee drug chief Prince Alexandre de Merode had told reporters earlier today that an athlete had tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone at the Bislett Games, a meet in July in Oslo.

DeMerode said the test showed the presence of nandrolone, which helps athletes gain strength and bulk, at 1,000 times the permitted limit.

DeMerode also accused U.S. track and field officials of covering up five positive drug tests before the 1988 Seoul Games. While he said he could not remember the names of the athletes, he said some may have won medals during those Games.

U.S. Olympic Committee officials offered no immediate comment on either the positive test involving Hunter or DeMerode's allegations.

The developments today marked the latest in a series of doping incidents before and during the Sydney Games. Five athletes--three of them Bulgarian weightlifters--were expelled from the Games for flunking drug tests.

A number of others--including weightlifters from Romania, Norway and Taiwan--were caught cheating in tests conducted before the Games, officials said.

Hunter, 31, had pulled out of the Sydney Olympics on Sept. 11, citing a knee injury. Eight days earlier, he had undergone arthroscopic knee surgery. Neither he nor Jones could be immediately located for comment.

But Hunter told NBC, "I know what's going on and I am aware of the allegations and am going to defend myself vigorously."

There have been no reports linking Jones to the use of banned performance-enhancing substances. She won the gold medal in the 100 meters Saturday night and begins qualifying Wednesday in the long jump and 200 meters. She is also due to compete in two relays.

The 330-pound Hunter won the world championship last year in Seville, Spain, with a put of 71 feet, 6 inches. He finished seventh in the 1996 Atlanta Games and is not a member of the U.S. Olympic team at the Sydney Games--but had been granted a credential as a coach for his wife.

Hunter came in second in the shot at the U.S. trials in Sacramento this summer. He then said he injured his knee while lifting weights in London in August.

Finland's Arsi Harju won the Olympic shotput competition on Friday with a throw of 69-10 1/4, followed by American Adam Nelson at 69-7.

De Merode said the IOC had been informed in early September of a positive test from the Bislett Games, traditionally a major international track and field meet.

It was not immediately clear why word of that positive test was not disclosed until today.

In its statement, the IAAF--track and field's worldwide governing body--said the case "is being referred to USA Track and Field," which runs the sport in the United States.

It issued a statement confirming that the IAAF "is referring to it an eligibility matter involving an American athlete," but provided no further details. Craig Masback, CEO of USA Track and Field, did not return calls today to his cellular phone. He did not attend a news conference at the Olympic Main Press Center.

On Sunday night, speaking before the release of the IAAF statement, Masback had said: "The policy of USA Track and Field is not to offer any comment in any eligibility matters--be it rumor, allegation or otherwise."

The IAAF statement was issued just days after Arne Ljungqvist, its chief anti-doping official, accused USA Track and Field of withholding information on 12 to 15 positive samples over the past two years.

Masback had denied that, and Jill Geer, a USA Track and Field spokeswoman, said today: "To suggest that USA Track and Field does not take drug testing seriously is ridiculous."

John Chaplin, coach of the U.S. men's team, said his understanding was that USA Track and Field was not aware of Hunter's positive test until today.

Asked about the effect on the team, he replied: "Distracting."

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