SALT LAKE CITY - Two U.S. gymnasts tested positive for marijuana in recent
out-of-competition drug sweeps conducted by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The American pair was not identified. WADA said the cases were pending
before the International Gymnastics Federation.

They were among 27 athletes from 18 countries who failed WADA drug tests.
In all, the agency conducted 3,639 out-of-competition tests since early
last year, including 1,621 in Winter Olympic sports. Some 1,200 of those
were done in the past two months.

The results were announced just hours before the opening ceremony of the
Winter Games.

"I can't think of a better day to do it," WADA chairman Dick Pound said.

Of those found with banned drugs in their system, only 16 received
penalties. Another athlete - Swedish hockey player Mattias Ohlund - was
warned about drug use but not penalized, and six other unidentified
athletes were spared sanctions under medical waivers.

The remaining four cases, including those of the American gymnasts, remain
under review by international sports federations, WADA said. It identified
the other athletes only as a Hungarian wrestler and a Brazilian sailor.

Bob Colorossi, president of USA Gymnastics, said that his office had
received information from the international federation "that is consistent
with what WADA reported."

Rich Wanninger, a USADA spokesman, said his group had not been notified of
the test results.

It was uncertain what penalties the gymnasts could face. Marijuana is not
viewed as a performance enhancer and the international federation has some
latitude when it imposes sanctions in such cases.

Pound, also an IOC member from Canada, said the relatively low numbers of
positive tests and sanction set the stage for "the most doping-free
Olympics and cleanest competition ever."

The test figures were included in the final pre-Olympic report by WADA,
established with the help of the International Olympic Committee more than
two years ago as an independent agency to oversee drug policy and conduct
drug exams.

Latvian bobsledder Sandis Prusis, caught for the steroid nandrolone, is
competing after an arbitration panel overturned the IOC's own ban. It
upheld the original sanction, a four-month ban that expires today.

Two other Olympic athletes were removed from their teams - Polish
bobsledder Ireneusz Zamlynski for flunking a test for nandrolone last
December; and Russian cross-country skier Natalia Baranova-Masolkina for
using EPO, a hormone that boosts production of oxygen-carrying red blood
cells and is felt to have widespread use among endurance athletes.

Newshawk: Terry Liittschwager
Pubdate: Sat, 09 Feb 2002
Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)
Copyright: 2002 The Register-Guard
Author: Larry Siddons, Associated Press