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U.S. bobsled star will appeal ruling

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A U.S. bobsledder on Wednesday night lost another round in his bid to remain on the Olympic team after he tested positive for use of a banned substance.

After the American Arbitration Association panel Wednesday issued a nine-month suspension from competition, Pavle Jovanovic is pinning his Olympic dreams on a hearing before the International Court of Arbitration for Sport in Salt Lake next Wednesday, just two days before the Winter Games open. The U.S. bobsled team has named Steve Mesler to replace Jovanovic, should he lose that round. Jovanovic was expected to be a "key" member of the two-man and four-man teams driven by Todd Hays.

At the U.S. Olympic Trials in Park City in December, Jovanovic failed a doping screen, testing positive for the steroid 19-norandrostenedione, which he said he must have ingested accidentally in a contaminated nutritional supplement. During the hearing, Jovanovic, 25, of Toms River, N.J., told the three-member arbitration panel he uses about 31 different nutritional supplements and did not know which one might have been tainted.

In giving the relatively short suspension, the arbitration panel noted it believed Jovanovic had not taken the banned substance deliberately. The normal suspension for such an offense is two years. But the panel said he "certainly negligently consumed the nutritional supplements which could have caused him to test positive" and reiterated that athletes are responsible for whatever is in their bodies.

The panel added that "the risk of consuming nutritional supplements contaminated with prohibited substances is well-known in the sporting world," something the Court of Arbitration for Sport has been "taking judicial notice of" since 1999.

The ruling also took the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation to task, saying it "bears partial responsibility" for Jovanovic's action. In testimony, the federation's executive director, Matt Roy, had noted that nutritional supplements were considered a "necessary evil" in the sport to help athletes build muscles.

And arbitrators criticized an article written by two sports medicine doctors for an Olympic publication that urges use of nutritional supplements. "It was disconcerting to the arbitrators that such a highly regarded publication, provided to all athletes, would include such an article without a comparable article warning of the dangers of contamination," the ruling said.

The suspension was dated from Jan. 26, the date originally set by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.


E-mail: lois@desnews.com