AP Interview: Taurasi denies taking modafinil

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Former UConn women’s basketball star Diana Taurasi is adamant: No matter what the test results showed, she never used performance-enhancing drugs.

“There’s no way I’ve ever taken anything,” she told The Associated Press by telephone Sunday night from her parents’ home in Chino, Calif.

In her first interview since testing positive in December for the stimulant modafinil, Taurasi and her lawyer blamed the Turkish lab where the sample was analyzed.

Taurasi is regarded by many as one of the best women’s players in the world. She was the first prominent WNBA player to test positive for a banned substance.

Taurasi said she intends to return to the WNBA when the season begins in June. The Phoenix guard has led the league in scoring the last four seasons and signed a multiyear extension with the Mercury last August.

The 28-year-old also plans to play for the U.S. team and coach Geno Auriemma in the 2012 Olympics. She’s already helped the Americans win the last two gold medals. Taurasi has talked to Auriemma, who coached her in college, at length since she tested positive. He said he’ll stand by her.

“My goal has been to play basketball,” she said. “Things have come up in my life, but that’s life for you. … This one was an unexpected one. I’ve been doing the right thing for my career. I’ll take this and move forward.”

“I went from being really angry to wondering, ‘Why me?’ I won’t let it bring me down,” she said.

Taurasi’s contract was terminated by the Turkish club Fenerbahce earlier this month after both her and A and B samples tested positive. The Turkish federation still hasn’t announced a punishment _ the organization was awaiting a response from Taurasi, and her lawyer, Howard Jacobs, said it would be delivered by Monday.

Taurasi faces a ban of up to two years and said she will appeal any suspension. The International Olympic Committee bars any athlete given a doping penalty of six months or more from competing in the next games.

“This will be resolved well in advance of 2012,” Jacobs said. “My understanding is that we have the right of appeal to the sport of arbitration body in Turkey. That could take a couple of months. All the appeals should be done by the end of this year.”

Taurasi said she was at her home in Turkey, on her couch, when the Fenerbahce general manager handed her the paper stating that she had tested positive for modafinil.

Taurasi said the news shocked her.

“I had never heard of it and couldn’t pronounce it,” she said. “I had to Google it to find out the side effects. I never have come in contact with it.”

The drug has been involved in several major doping cases, including that of American sprinter Kelli White, and is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances. Modafinil is used to counter excessive sleepiness due to narcolepsy, shift-work sleep disorder or sleep apnea, according to drug manufacturers.

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