APNewsBreak: Ex-sprint champ Block in doping probe

Updated: March 24, 2011, 12:42 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- Track and field is investigating former world champion sprinter Zhanna Block for doping and could try to strip the Ukrainian of her medals in a BALCO steroid case that goes back a decade and centers on one of Marion Jones' biggest rivals.

Block is under scrutiny after a U.S. anti-doping arbitration panel suspended her husband -- coach and agent Mark Block -- for 10 years last week after finding he trafficked in drugs supplied by BALCO and gave them to his wife.

It's now up to the International Association of Athletics Federations or the Ukrainian federation to take any retroactive action against Zhanna Block, who was formerly known as Zhanna Pintusevich and won three world sprint titles in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"There is an ongoing investigation," IAAF vice president Sergei Bubka, who is from Ukraine, told The Associated Press in an e-mail. "I am not at liberty to discuss any details of who is managing the case, and what the likely outcome might be."

The investigation raises the issue of statue of limitations -- Block's prestigious 100-meter world title dates back 10 years -- as well as further rewriting of the already messy doping-tainted results and record books.

"I do not want to prejudge the outcome of any investigation but, in general, IAAF rules allow for retroactive sanctions and this has happened often in the past," Bubka said.

"Although I am not in a position to discuss this particular case, I remain 100 percent committed to the IAAF's zero-tolerance stance regarding doping in athletics," the former Olympic pole vault champion and reigning world-record holder added.

The U.S. arbitration panel, in a ruling released Friday by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, cited evidence that Mark Block traded and trafficked in designer drugs the "clear" and the "cream" and other banned substances from BALCO for his wife's use.

Mark Block's attorney said Tuesday he will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The sprinter, who is now retired from athletics, married Mark Block in 1999. Mark Block has been an athlete representative since 1997.

"The IAAF has been working hand-in-hand with USADA since 2003 to ensure that all athletes and athlete support personnel involved in the conspiracy are brought to justice," the IAAF said in a statement.

Zhanna Block was one of the world's dominant female sprinters during an era that was later exposed as riddled with performance-enhancing drugs.

At the 1997 world championships in Athens, Block won the 200-meter gold medal and finished just two-hundredths of a second behind Jones in the 100.

Block won the 100 at the 2001 worlds in Edmonton in 10.82 seconds, becoming the first woman to beat two-time defending champion Jones in a 100 final after 42 consecutive races dating to 1997. Block added the 60-meter world indoor title in 2003.

Mark Block had been under investigation for years, and once evidence emerged that he provided drugs to his wife, track authorities decided that she should be investigated as well, a senior official with knowledge of the case told the AP. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is still under legal confidentiality.

Because USADA investigates only American athletes and support personnel, the Zhanna Block allegations are being probed by the IAAF and/or Ukrainian federation, the official said.

The IAAF has a statute of limitations of eight years, which would seem to rule out any action against Block before 2003. However, the official said, the probe could extend back further than 2003 depending on when the investigation began. If the probe started in 2009 or earlier, for example, officials could then go after Block's 2001 world title.

That could lead to yet more changes to a muddled list of canceled results and medals from women's sprint finals during the BALCO era.

Jones won five medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, only to have all the medals stripped by the IOC because of steroid use. She served six months in prison in 2008 for lying to federal investigators about her drug use and her role in a check-fraud case.

Jones was also stripped by the IAAF of world championship titles and medals. The American finished second behind Block in the 100 final in Edmonton and was later stripped of the silver medal.

If the IAAF were to strip Block of the gold, it could lead to the awkward situation of declaring Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou -- the original third-place finisher -- as the winner.

Thanou was at the center of major drug scandal herself at the 2004 Athens Olympics, when she and fellow Greek runner Costas Kenteris were accused of evading pre-games doping tests and staging a motorcycle accident as a coverup.

In an unprecedented move, the IOC decided in December 2009 not to promote Thanou to the Sydney 100-meter gold medal that was stripped from Jones. The IOC said Thanou was not deserving of the "honor" because of her role in the Athens scandal.

Thanou and Kenteris are still on trial in Greece on misdemeanor perjury charges related to the motorcycle crash.

The original fourth-place finisher in the 2001 race was Chandra Sturrup of the Bahamas.

If the IAAF goes all the way back to the 1997 worlds, the runner-up behind Block in the 200 was Sri Lanka's Susanthika Jayansinghe. She twice tested positive for nandrolone but was cleared after maintaining the banned substance was contained in a drug to control menstrual cycles.

Should officials seek to take Block's 60-meter title from the 2003 indoor worlds in Birmingham, England, American sprinter Angela Williams would stand to be upgraded from silver to gold. Moving from bronze to silver would be American Torri Edwards, who later served a 15-month doping ban for accidentally taking a banned stimulant.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index