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Romanian Teenager Stripped of Gold

Gymnastics: All-around champion Andreea Raducan tested positive for a stimulant found in cold medicine given by team doctor, who is banned from future Olympics.


SYDNEY — Andreea Raducan was the tiny gymnastics charmer. Last week Raducan, who turns 17 Saturday, won the women's gymnastics all-around gold medal. She was compared to countrywoman Nadia Comaneci. Like Comaneci, Raducan has big, brown eyes, a winning smile and an intense, acrobatic athleticism.

On Monday night, Raducan was stripped of her gold medal after failing a drug test.

Raducan tested positive for pseudoephedrine, a banned stimulant that is found in over-the-counter cold medication. According to International Olympic Committee (IOC) drug chief Prince Alexandre de Merode, the Romanian team doctor had given Raducan Nurofen, an over-the-counter cold pill, because Raducan was suffering from flu-like symptoms.

While de Merode said he believed there was no intent to give Raducan the drug for performance-enhancing reasons, de Merode said the affect of the stimulant could have helped Raducan.

"I believe this was an accident," de Merode said. "It was medication given to an innocent girl by a team doctor. She was not directly responsible. But we have the rules and the rules must apply to everyone."

The Romanian team doctor, Ioachim Oana, has been expelled from the Olympics and banned from the 2002 Winter and 2004 Summer Games. De Merode said the punishment was so severe because Oana "had extra responsibility when prescribing drugs for such a young athlete."

This is the first time a gymnastics athlete has been stripped of a medal. Raducan's Romanian teammate Simona Amanar now receives the gold medal while Maria Olaru, also of Romania, gets the silver and Liu Xuan of China, who had been fourth, receives the bronze.

Raducan had been the first Romanian to win the all-around gold since Comaneci. The Romanians had been the first team since the Soviet Union in 1960 to sweep the three all-around medals.

According to an IOC spokesman, Raducan will be allowed to keep her gold medal from the team competition, which Romania also won, as well as a silver from the vault.

Raducan had been drug-tested twice. The first time came after she won the all-around medal on Thursday and also after she won the silver medal on the vault. After the vault, Raducan's drug test was negative, which was why she was allowed to keep the silver medal. Raducan wasn't tested after the team competition.

According to the IOC, Raducan had a drug level of 90 nongrams per milliliter. The allowable amount is 24 nongrams per milliliter.

Even though Romanian officials were notified of Raducan's positive test on Monday afternoon, Raducan participated in the individual floor exercise and finished seventh.

This is the second controversy to mar the women's all-around competition. Half the 36 entrants had performed on a vault that was set five centimeters--about two inches--too low. Russian favorite Svetlana Khorkina was one of the women who took bad falls as a result.

The Russian team entered a formal complaint but the Federation Internationale Gymnastique (FIG) said there is no recourse other than that offered the night of the event. After the mistake was discovered, the 18 women who had competed on the lowered vault were given a chance to vault again.

Ion Tiriac, Romanian National Olympic Committee president, said his country would appeal the decision to strip Raducan of her medal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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