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WADA could suspend Turkish lab in Taurasi case

- Associated Press - Thursday, February 17, 2011

LONDON (AP) - The World Anti-Doping Agency could suspend the Turkish drug-testing laboratory that reported an apparent "false positive" for American basketball star Diana Taurasi.

WADA director general David Howman told The Associated Press on Thursday the agency has asked the Ankara lab to explain why it declared Taurasi's samples positive for the banned stimulant modafinil, a decision which led to her contract being terminated by her Turkish club.

"We are still awaiting all the information from the laboratory," Howman said. "It appears that it was a false positive. In any of those cases we need to review all the data to determine whether any steps need to be taken, including any steps against the laboratory."

WADA can suspend and revoke the accreditation of doping labs. WADA, which has 35 accredited labs worldwide, previously suspended the Ankara center for three months in 2009 for failing to meet international standards.

"Anything which goes wrong has to be a worry," Howman said. "That's why we have to investigate it pretty thoroughly. The reputation of the athlete who's been aggrieved is pretty important, too, and that has to be acknowledged."

The Turkish lab reported that Taurasi's "A" and "B" samples both tested positive for modafinil following a Turkish league game on Nov. 13. Her club, Fenerbahce, terminated her contract last month and she was suspended by the Turkish Basketball Federation.

The federation lifted the suspension Wednesday, saying the lab retracted its positive finding after it "evaluated" Taurasi's statements in her defense.

The federation also lifted the provisional suspension for American player Monique Coker, who plays for Ceyhan Belediyesi and had tested positive for modafinil in tests carried out by the same lab.

False positives are rare in international drug testing.

"We have more of an issue with false negatives," Howman said.

The WADA-accredited lab in Malaysia was suspended for false positives last year. The lab is appealing the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"There is a process that has to be followed, including the gathering of all the data," Howman said in a telephone interview from Montreal. "If it's sufficiently bad, then the lab should go to a disciplinary panel and have a hearing. They've got a right to put every excuse and reasoning before the panel."

Taurasi insisted all along that she never used performance-enhancing drugs.

"It's really good that the facts came out and the truth came out," Taurasi told the AP on Wednesday. "Life can throw you curveballs at any given time. I can be mad and angry, but I will move forward."

The 28-year-old Taurasi intends to return to the WNBA when the season begins in June. The Mercury guard has led the U.S. league in scoring the last four seasons. She is also now eligible to compete for the U.S. at the 2012 London Olympics.

The Turkish Doping Control Center at the Hacettepe University declined to comment on the case Thursday. But the HaberTurk newspaper quoted Ugur Erdener, dean of the university, as admitting the lab made a mistake.

"There are two evaluations to analyze the test results and the average of them is taken. The (lab) officials' evaluation was based on one data. However, the average should have been taken as the base," Erdener was quoted as saying.

Fenerbahce President Aziz Yildirim met Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the case Thursday. No statement was made after the meeting but Ali Koc, a club official, denied reports that Fenerbahce asked authorities to shut down the doping lab.

Turgay Demirel, president of the Turkish Basketball Federation, said two soccer players were also cleared of doping after the lab retracted its reports about them.

"It is very sad for our country that an institution accredited to WADA committed such a huge mistake," he said. "Both Turkey, Turkish sports and Turkish basketball could pay a fairly high price for this. Sportsmen and federations or clubs in their countries and even us could file compensation suits against this institution."

Demirel said about 3,500 doping tests have been carried out annually in Turkey, with most analyzed by the Ankara lab.

"From now on, I don't think the certificate of Hacettepe University can remain valid," Demirel said. "But we will have to use centers in Lisbon, Cologne or maybe Athens."

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Associated Press writer Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara contributed to this report.

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