Track officials confirm American shot put world champion tested positive for drug use

SYDNEY, Australia - American shot put world champion C.J. Hunter, husband of Olympic gold medalist Marion Jones, tested positive for the banned substance nandrolone, international track officials said Monday.

Hunter is not competing in Sydney, but is credentialed as a coach for his wife, who won the 100 meters on Saturday and is trying to win an unprecedented five gold medals. Jones' next race is the 200 on Wednesday.

Istvan Gyulai, general secretary of the International Amateur Athletics Federation, or IAAF, track's governing body, confirmed Hunter flunked a drug test but would not say when or where the test was conducted.

However, earlier Monday International Olympic Committee drug chief Prince Alexandre de Merode said an athlete tested positive for nandrolone at the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway, in late July. De Merode did not specifically name Hunter.

Hunter won the U.S. trials in June, then finished second in the Bislett Games on July 28. But he withdrew from the U.S. team Sept. 11, eight days after arthroscopic knee surgery in North Carolina.

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

Gyulai said if Hunter is found guilty of abusing steroids, he would face a two-year suspension.

Craig Masback, head of USA Track & Field, confirmed that the IAAF has referred an ''eligibility matter involving an American athlete'' to the federation. He refused to confirm or deny that the athlete was Hunter, citing the organization's confidentiality rules.

Masback insisted he had ''no idea about any facts'' regarding Hunter's case.

Nandrolone helps athletes gain strength and muscle bulk by repairing the damage of high-level training and competition. It has been involved in hundreds of recent doping cases.

The 330-pound Hunter had been among the favorites for a shot put gold medal in Sydney before his injury. Ranked No. 1 in the world last year after winning the world championship with a throw of 71-6, Hunter also was the bronze medalist at the 1997 world championships. He is a three-time U.S. champion and the 1995 world indoor silver medalist. He finished seventh at the 1996 Olympics.

There have been no reports linking Jones to the use of banned performance enhancers.

''This is an individual matter,'' said Francois Carrard, IOC director general, adding that Jones is not under suspicion. ''If she does not test positive, we should not infer (guilt) from one individual to another.''

De Merode accused U.S. track and field officials of covering up five positive drug tests before the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He said he didn't recall the names of the athletes, but that some may have won medals during the games.

In response, the U.S. Olympic Committee said the cases were publicized 12 years ago and the athletes involved were cleared because they used the drug ephedrine accidentally.

Arne Ljungqvist, the IAAF's anti-doping chief, said last week that USA Track & Field had failed to disclose 12 to 15 positive drug cases in the past two years.

''The athletes feel that the IAAF and USA Track & Field are covering up and have special rules for American athletes,'' said Johann Olav Koss, the Norwegian speedskating gold medalist who is now an IOC member.

Masback responded: ''I regret Johann would say that. It is a matter of fact and a matter of record that USA Track & Field tested out of competition before any other sport and any other country. We've tested more people for more substances over a longer period of time. And, unfortunately, we've busted more people than any other sport.

''Are we doing it perfectly? No, we're not. But we have set the standard for the rest of the sports world. ... I am far from being defensive about what we are doing. I am extremely proud of what we've done. We've been the leader in the world on this matter. We've paid a price for being the leader.''

Masback, who has been in charge of American track for three years, defended its record and its procedures.

''We have continued to do in-competition and out-of-competition testing in a very vigorous and expensive fashion,'' he said. ''We've exonerated some athletes, and we've convicted some athletes.

''USA Track and Field and the IAAF have nothing to hide or be ashamed of.''

Gyulai said he was sad that the reports on Hunter were coming now.

''I regret that this news is breaking when Marion Jones is running,'' he said. ''It's terrible whether it's true or not. It has nothing to do with the Olympics. ... If it's not true, it would seem there are efforts to smear the wonderful days here.''


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