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Wednesday, September 27
Another drug bust for Romania

SYDNEY, Australia -- World record-holder Mihaela Melinte of Romania was escorted off the Olympic Stadium track infield Wednesday (Tuesday EDT) just before she was to throw in the hammer competition. She has been suspended for testing positive for steroids.

Melinte, the 1999 world champion, was suspended just two days ago by the International Amateur Athletic Federation, the governing body for track and field, IAAF spokesman Giorgio Reineri said.

Melinte, 25, tested positive for metabolites of nandrolone at a meet in Milan, Italy, on June 7, according to Arne Ljungqvist, IAAF medical commission chairman.

Nandrolone is the same substance that American shot put world champion C.J. Hunter tested positive for earlier this year, according to international track officials. Nandrolone helps athletes gain strength and muscle bulk by repairing the damage of high-level training and competition.

Reineri said the Romanian federation had not suspended Melinte, so the IAAF took action.

"The federation was informed in a letter on Sept. 25," Reineri said. "If they don't take the action, we can only stop the athlete. The athlete was not supposed to be there."

The sample was analyzed at the International Olympic Committee-accredited lab in Rome, but the IAAF wasn't notified by the lab until Sept. 5.

The IAAF asked for further analysis, and the final confirmation came only a few days ago.

"We delivered the necessary information to all those concerned in due time," Ljungqvist said. "It should not have happened this way."

Reineri said this is not the first time an athlete has been pulled from an event shortly before the competition, but this might have been the most dramatic, since it came moments before she was to throw.

It was not clear whether Melinte knew of the suspension.

"It's sad she won't be here," said Debbie Sosimenko of Australia, who had the third-best throw in the qualifying. "I wanted to see a record throw, but it does push me up another place. She came to the stadium with us and was sitting down when the officials told her she could not compete."

Melinte set the world record of 249 feet, 6½ inches on Aug. 29, 1999, in Rudlingen, Sweden.

She accompanied the other throwers into the stadium for the second group of hammer qualifying Wednesday morning. At that time, the IAAF notified Sydney Olympic organizers that she should not be allowed to throw.

"We were informed by the IAAF that we should escort her off the field, which we did," said Jayne Pearce, a spokeswoman for Sydney Olympic organizers. "We would never do that on our own."

The incident was the latest in a series of embarrassments and controversies surrounding the Romanian Olympic team. Two Romanian weightlifters were expelled for failing pre-game, out-of-competition drug tests. The entire Romanian weightlifting team was to be kicked out of the games, but paid a $50,000 fine to allow those who had not tested positive to stay.

Romanian gymnast Andreea Raducan was stripped of her gold from the women's all-around Tuesday after she tested positive for pseudoephedrine, a banned stimulant. She is the first gymnast ever to be stripped of a medal because of a drug violation.


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