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Report: Thorpe tested positive

L'Equipe breaks story that he has `abnormal levels' of testosterone and luteinizing hormone in drug test in May 2006.

March 31, 2007|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — This proud swimming nation awoke today to a report that a home-grown hero, Olympic icon Ian Thorpe, had "abnormal levels" of testosterone and luteinizing hormone in an out-of-competition drug test last May.

And hours later, FINA, the international governing body for swimming, confirmed it had launched an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to investigate the matter. The French sports daily newspaper L'Equipe broke the story about Thorpe, reporting that the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) had initially dismissed the matter for lack of scientific proof.

FINA considered the findings of the drug sample "an adverse analytical result," according to a release. It, however, did not identify Thorpe. The head of ASADA, Richard Ings, could not be reached for comment either by phone or e-mail.

As might be expected in a nation obsessed with sport, in particular swimming and celebrity, the news had reverberations beyond the World Swimming Championships. Though now retired, Thorpe, the winner of five Olympic gold medals, remains a huge national figure and a major figure in the swim world.

Even the country's Prime Minister John Howard immediately defended Thorpe to reporters, saying: "As far as I'm concerned, until solid evidence of the contrary is produced Ian Thorpe remains a great Australian champion." Thorpe himself learned of the situation on Saturday morning, according to Swimming Australia's chief executive, Glenn Tasker.

"I'll support Ian 1,000 percent," Tasker said.

FINA officials were unable to shed much light on the situation during an often contentious news conference with reporters on the second-to-last day of the world championships.

The timing could not have been worse for what has been the country's biggest swim meet since the Olympics in 2000. Thorpe was on hand the first night of the competition but was not there when Michael Phelps broke Thorpe's vaunted world record in the 200-meter freestyle.

"I think it's bad for Ian," said Tasker. "It's bad timing for us. I really feel sorry for the organizers.

"I think it would be a real pity if this was to overshadow what Michael Phelps is doing here. It would be a travesty of justice because we are seeing something that no one's ever done before."

After the drug test in question, Thorpe was tested three more times by FINA, on July 29, Aug. 21 and Nov. 10. The final test came one day before Thorpe stunned the country with his surprise retirement.

Thorpe has had a contentious relationship with FINA. A prominent anti-drug campaigner, he criticized the organization for what he said was insufficient drug testing. In 2004, he said that if anyone thought he was swimming at a clean Olympic Games, they would be "naive."

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lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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