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Jovanovic on bobsled team — maybe

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Pavle Jovanovic, the bobsled powerhouse the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency banned from competing in the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, was named to America's Olympic team Monday. But only conditionally.

The team is limited to 10 members. Because Jovanovic's status is uncertain, he was named to the team along with Steve Mesler, an athlete from Buffalo, N.Y., and nine others.

If Jovanovic loses his appeal of the order banning him, Mesler will be a member. If Jovanovic wins, presumably Mesler is out.

"It's dependant on Pavle's status," said Julie Urbansky, public affairs director for the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, Lake Placid, N.Y., which governs the sport in this country. The federation made the nominations before a late Monday deadline.

Jovanovic, of Tom's River, N.J., was a member of the four-man crew of Todd Hays, and he sometimes served as brakeman for Hays in the two-man sled. Hays swamped all competition in the World Cup. Hays and his crews will represent this country in the Winter Games that start in 10 days.

Even though they did not need to compete in team selection races last month at Bear Hollow, Hays and the others raced and won. But during the Dec. 29 race, Jovanovic tested positive for a banned substance, a steroid called 19-norandrostenedione, said the anti-doping agency.

The material is available by mail order but is forbidden by rules of the anti-doping agency. Jovanovic said he would appeal, and the federation said it would back him.

In an official statement, the federation insisted Jovanovic did not cheat. Dietary supplements like protein may have been contaminated by the material, leaving traces in Jovanovic's system, it said.

"This is not about the USBSF protecting Olympic medal hopes," adds the statement. "This is about supporting a dedicated, honest athlete in his quest to compete in the ultimate competition and having the best athletes represent the United States at the games."

A spokeswoman for the USBSF said Tuesday that she was not certain when a hearing would be held on the appeal and did not know which organization would hear the matter.

One forum seems a possibility. An appeal on another controversy regarding women's bobsledding — whether Jean Racine could remove Jen Davidson from her sled and replace her with Gea Johnson — went before the American Board of Arbitration last week. After two days of hearings, Davidson, of Layton, withdrew her appeal.

Mesler was part of the four-man crew of Mike Dionne, which finished third and fourth in the two races of the Olympic trials earlier this year. At 23, Mesler is two years younger than Jovanovic. He is 6-foot-2-inches tall and weighs 206 pounds, 14 pounds lighter and an inch taller than the man he may replace.

Billy Schuffenhaur of Ogden remains an alternate on Hays' team.

E-MAIL: bau@desnews.com