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Sunday, January 27, 2002
Updated: January 28, 1:36 PM ET
Bobsledder Jovanovic fails drug test

Associated Press

U.S. bobsledder Pavle Jovanovic was disqualified from the Salt Lake City Olympics after failing a drug test.

The 25-year-old Jovanovic, of Toms River, N.J., a pusher on the top four-man and two-man sleds of driver Todd Hays, tested positive for metabolites of the anabolic steroid 19-norandrostenedione on Dec. 29, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (ADA) said Sunday.

Jovanovic intends to appeal his disqualification.

"I've never taken any illegal performance-enhancing substances and never will," Jovanovic of Toms River, N.J., told two New Jersey newspapers, the Asbury Park Press and The Star-Ledger of Newark. "They know I didn't and they're still trying to ban me."

"This is clearly not a case of an athlete intentionally cheating," the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation's (USBSF) statement said. "Dietary supplements, such as protein, are believed by many to be necessary to compete at the world-class level in bobsled. The USBSF does not believe that the athletes should bear the burden of an unregulated supplement industry that cannot guarantee all ingredients are identified on its labels."

A replacement for Jovanovic was not announced immediately. A three-member panel of the American Arbitration Association (ADA) will determine later how long he will be suspended from the sport.

Among the fallout was Hays being stripped of a victory in a World Cup on Jan. 13 in St. Moritz, Switzerland, with Jovanovic his brakeman.

Bobsledding's world governing body said Tuesday that Hays had been stripped of the victory and the 36 points that went with it. Instead of finishing in third place with 171 points in the final overall World Cup standings, Hays dropped to a tie for 10th with 135.

Martin Annen of Switzerland was the overall World Cup leader with 206 points, followed by Andre Lange of Germany with 201.

Jovanovic was tested during the U.S. Olympic Trials in Park City, Utah. A written report was to be released Monday, according to Matt Roy, executive director of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.

"A doctor from the ADA testified that it was likely the result of contaminated supplements and that it would not have given him any competitive advantage," Roy said. "Pavle is currently investigating what his recourse is."

Jovanovic is the second bobsledder disqualified this month, though the other athlete was reinstated on appeal.

On Jan. 7, the International Bobsled Federation (FIBT) banned Latvian driver Sandis Prusis from World Cup competition and the Olympics. Prusis tested positive for nandrolone on Nov. 9, after a training run at the Olympic track in Park City.

But Prusis and Latvian Olympic officials appealed the decision, blaming the positive test results on dietary supplements. The FIBT agreed and imposed a three-month retroactive suspension on Prusis that will end Feb. 9, making him eligible for the Winter Games.

Jovanovic's disqualification comes only three weeks before the bobsled competition at Park City, and only a day before the deadline to submit names of athletes to the International Olympic Committee.

"The biggest problem is the deadline," Roy said. "We are extremely disappointed that Sandis Prusis ... will be racing, and Pavle won't at this point. We don't believe that it's fair."

Hays, who has rocketed to the top of the sport in the past year, is expected to break the U.S. drought at the Winter Olympics. The United States has not won an Olympic bobsled medal since Arthur Tyler captured the four-man bronze in 1956 at Cortina, Italy.

"Todd still has an excellent chance at two medals if Pavle cannot participate," Roy said. "But it certainly doesn't help matters."

Hays led the combined World Cup standings before skipping the final two races of the season. He has used his four-man brakeman, Garrett Hines, in the two-man. They shattered the track record at Lake Placid in a World Cup race in November and easily beat Martin Annen of Switzerland, who was the overall World Cup leader in two-man after six races.