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Bobsled star booted from U.S. Oly team

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Pavle Jovanovic, whose prowess was a main reason the United States men's bobsled team was favored to win the gold during the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, was ordered off the team Sunday by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Jovanovic said he would appeal. The U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, which regulates the sport in this country, said a nutritional supplement might be to blame, and announced that it would support him in the appeal.

Jovanovic, 25, of Tom's River, N.J., was a member of the four-man bobsled piloted by Todd Hays of Del Rio, Texas. He was competing against Garrett Hines, Atlanta, for the position of brakeman on Hays' two-man sled.

Both two- and four-man sleds driven by Hays demolished the competition in their respective World Cup races, ensuring them the top U.S. spots in the Winter Games.

Ironically, even though they already were on the team, at the end of December the Hays crews competed in the Olympic selection trials at Bear Hollow. There, Hays and Jovanovic won again, and Jovanovic exclaimed, "It's good to be on top of the world!"

But during the Dec. 29 Olympic Trials, Jovanovic tested positive for a steroid called 19-norandrostenedione. The anabolic material is sold on the Internet as helping build muscles without the bad side effects "of most steroids."

"Mr. Jovanovic will be disqualified from being a member of the 2002 U.S. Olympic Winter bobsled team," said an announcement Sunday from the doping agency, based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The U.S. federation issued a press release saying it does not condone the use of prohibited substances. "However, this is clearly not a case of an athlete intentionally cheating," it adds.

The federation quoted Dr. Donald Catlin, director of the drug testing laboratory at UCLA as saying the material in Jovanovic's system probably were the result of contaminated supplements and would not have given him a competitive advantage.

"The USBSF is deeply disturbed that Latvian bobsledder Sandis Prusis, who had approximately twice the level of metabolites in his urine, will be competing in the Games while apparently Pavle will not," adds the press release.

If Jovanovic is off the team, that means Ogden's Billy Schuffenhaur most likely will compete. He was named as a member of the Olympic team as the alternate for Hays' sled.

However, the federation still could decide not to name Jovanovic to the team. If that were the case, someone else could be named in his place, in which case Schuffenhaur conceivably could remain an alternate.

Whether someone will be named to the team in place of Jovanovic was uncertain on Monday morning, according to Julie Urbansky, director of public affairs for the federation, based at Lake Placid, N.Y. "The deadline (for the final team announcement) is actually this evening," she said.

The federation had scheduled meetings during the day to discuss the matter. Meanwhile, she said, "We actually don't know what's going to happen."

In a telephone press conference on Jan. 18, Hays said he had not yet decided whether Hines or Jovanovic would be the brakeman on his two-man sled. "We may have a race-off . . . to see, to give both guys the opportunity to show their stuff," he said.

In describing his four-man crew, he said, "it starts with Pavle Jovanovic . . . just a great athlete." Hays described Jovanovic as an overall athlete, "extremely strong and fast.

"He's probably the most disciplined guy on the team as far as nutrition and working out."

E-MAIL: bau@desnews.com