Sotomayor cleared for Olympics

Posted: Thursday, August 03, 2000

LONDON -- Cuban high jump champion Javier Sotomayor was cleared Wednesday to compete in the Olympics when track and field's ruling body cut his suspension for cocaine use in half.

The International Amateur Athletic Federation cited ''exceptional circumstances'' for the move, pointing to his previously clean drug record and humanitarian work.

''I am happy, but not totally satisfied,'' Sotomayor told The Associated Press outside the Karl Marx theater in Havana before Wednesday night's ceremony for the Cuban athletes participating in this summer's games.

''I want to keep trying to clean up my image,'' he said. ''That is my goal.''

The IAAF also opened the door for former Olympic 5,000-meter champion Dieter Baumann to compete in Sydney during a special meeting at its Monaco headquarters to handle pending drug cases.

It sent Baumann's case to arbitration and said he was ''free to compete'' until an arbitration hearing, which could be held in early September. The Sydney Games start Sept. 15.

Sotomayor, a two-time world champion and 1992 Olympic gold medalist, is the only jumper to clear 8 feet. He was stripped of his gold medal at last year's Pan American Games after testing positive for cocaine.

Five weeks ago, an IAAF arbitration panel overturned a ruling by the Cuban Athletics Federation that allowed him to continue competing domestically and in other nonsanctioned meets.

The 32-year-old high jumper denied using drugs, and Cuban President Fidel Castro and the country's track federation claimed his urine samples had been manipulated.

''Exceptional circumstances take into account the career of Sotomayor, the fact that during 15 years he underwent 300 doping tests, all negative,'' IAAF spokesman Giorgio Reineri said.

''There were also his acts as a member of the IAAF athletic commission, many humanitarian considerations and the fact this is his last Olympics.''

The council also agreed to send Baumann's case to arbitration but declined to suspend him, meaning he can compete pending the outcome of the hearing. No date was set.

Reineri said the council ''strongly urged'' the arbitration be held before the Olympics, although a source close to the world body said that ''was unlikely.''

Baumann, the '92 Olympic 5,000-meter champ, was banned for two years for a positive test last fall for the anabolic steroid nandrolone. He was cleared two weeks ago by the German federation's legal panel, which ruled there had been irregularities in the collection, storage and delivery of his urine samples.

Baumann has insisted he was innocent, saying he had been the target of a plot when traces of nandrolone were found in a toothpaste tube he supposedly used.

The council also agreed to send the case of Hungarian 400-meter hurdler Judit Szekeres to arbitration.

''All reasonable effort will be made to ensure that both cases will be considered at the beginning of September,'' the IAAF said.

The IAAF also set Aug. 14 to hear the positive doping cases of banned British athletes Linford Christie, Doug Walker and Gary Cadogan.

The three Britons were cleared by UK Athletics, the national governing body, after testing positive for nandrolone. However, they were later banned by the IAAF pending arbitration.

The arbitration for the three is somewhat meaningless.

Former world and Olympic champion Christie has retired. Walker, the European 200-meter champion, said this week he would skip the British trials because he's not ready for the Olympics. Cadogan, a 400 hurdler, has retired.

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