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OLYMPICS HELENE ELLIOTT

Appeal Is Next for Jovanovic

January 31, 2002|HELENE ELLIOTT

U.S. bobsledder Pavle Jovanovic, disqualified from the Salt Lake City Winter Games after testing positive for the banned steroid 19-norandrostenedione, was suspended Wednesday for nine months by the North American Court of Arbitration for Sport. However, his attorney was heartened that it wasn't worse and hopes the sanction will be reversed or modified on appeal.

Had Jovanovic intended to take a performance-enhancing substance instead of unknowingly consuming it in a dietary supplement, attorney Adam Driggs said, he would have gotten the two-year sentence standard in such cases. The relative brevity led Driggs to believe their appeal, which will be heard by the International Court for Arbitration in Sport next Wednesday in Salt Lake City, has a chance to succeed.

"The nine months is significant because that's the lowest suspension the CAS panel has given," Driggs said. "Obviously, they found it came from a contaminated supplement, or they would have given him two years."

Driggs said he will draw parallels to Latvian slider Sandis Prusis, who tested positive for nandrolone in November and was suspended by the international bobsled federation (FIBT). Prusis said he had ingested the substance in a dietary supplement and appealed to the FIBT, which made the suspension retroactive and allowed him to compete at Salt Lake City.

Jovanovic, a former Rutgers football player from Toms River, N.J., cannot appeal to the FIBT because the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has authority to handle drug testing and adjudication of U.S. Olympic athletes. He was scheduled to be part of Todd Hays' crew in the four-man event and possibly the two-man event.

The U.S. Olympic Committee got permission from the International Olympic Committee to submit the names of 11 bobsledders instead of 10 when it submitted its team rosters to the IOC on Monday. If Jovanovic can't compete, Steve Mesler will replace him.

"I wish we could go to the FIBT," Driggs said. "The reason Prusis was given three months is that's what the Latvian federation asked for. It would give him a punishment but would allow him to compete at the Olympics. We would accept a punishment, because unfortunately, Pavle did take a contaminated supplement unknowingly, but he is responsible for that.

"We'd take punishment like letting him compete in only one event, not two, or letting him compete at the Olympics and suspending him for the start of next year's World Cup, or having him lecture at high schools about the consequences of taking these things. He shouldn't be treated like an athlete who stuck an injection in his side with nandrolone. One good thing about this is it does say he's not a cheater, for what solace that gives."

Matt Roy, executive director of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, acknowledged his federation's program to educate athletes about dietary supplements "is not very organized," and added "there is a lot being contemplated" for future efforts. He also acknowledged the prevalence of supplements among bobsledders and said AdvoCare, a producer of supplements and dietary aids, gives products and "a small amount of cash" to the USBSF in its role of sponsor.

"I can't say as we actually go as far as to recommend supplements," he said. "I think there are a number of people, athletes and coaches, within the federation that would say it's required to compete at a high level, weight and strength being important. ... Our athletes and coaches basically live on protein shakes."

He also said testing the supplements for banned substances was considered. "We were told it's a non-issue," he said, "because one batch could be clean and the next could be contaminated. We have a letter from AdvoCare saying its products are clean and stating that of 60 athletes [who used its products] in Sydney, none tested positive for banned substances."

Losing Jovanovic "is certainly not going to help Todd's chances in the two-man," Roy said. "In the four-man, Billy Schuffenhauer would step in. I'm not sure he's of Pavle's ability, but Billy is also a great athlete and he's one-quarter of the team in the four-man, so [adjusting to a new crewmate] is less of a factor."

An Aptitude for Skating

Russian figure skater Alexander Abt's medical history is almost as long as his competitive resume.

He has had two serious knee operations, treatment for a badly cut thigh muscle he suffered in a freak accident during an exhibition, sinus infections and surgery to remove a cyst from his sinuses last spring. He showed enormous promise on the rare occasions he was healthy, finishing third at the 1998 European championships.

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