- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 8, 2004

GIORGIOUPOLI, Greece — Barring a successful appeal, sprinter Torri Edwards will be suspended for at least two years for taking a banned stimulant, knocking her out of the Olympics and perhaps giving Marion Jones a chance to defend her gold medal in the 100 meters.

A review panel concluded there were no exceptional circumstances that would warrant a lesser penalty, Travis Tygart, director of legal affairs for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, told the Associated Press yesterday.

“The rule says it’s a minimum of two years,” Tygart said.

The finding by the panel of the International Association of Athletics Federations has been forwarded to the U.S. arbitration panel that initially heard Edwards’ case. That panel will determine Edwards’ penalty but has no authority to make it less than a two-year ban, Tygart said.

The American Arbitration Association panel had found that there may be exceptional circumstances in Edwards’ case, but the IAAF board disagreed.

The panel’s official finding is expected next week. Edwards can appeal to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport, whose ruling would be binding.

Edwards’ lawyer, Emanuel Hudson, did not return several phone calls to his office but told the New York Times that Edwards was “very saddened and disappointed” by the ruling. She said during the U.S. Olympic trials in July that she would appeal any suspension as far as she could.

The world champion in the 100, Edwards tested positive at a meet in Martinique in April but blamed a glucose supplement, saying she was unaware it contained the stimulant nikethamide. She said her physician bought the glucose at a store there because she wasn’t feeling well.

She had argued there was no reason to cheat at the meet because there was no prize money and the field was weak. She said she felt compelled to run because she was paid a substantial appearance fee and was the meet’s leading attraction.

Edwards was expected to contend for medals in the 100 and 200 in Athens. Her absence could give Jones a chance to defend her gold medal in the 100 because it would free up a spot in the event.

Gail Devers, the fourth-place finisher in the 100 at the trials, would be entitled to Edwards’ spot. But the 37-year-old Devers, in her fifth Olympics, could decide to focus on the 100-meter hurdles, an event she has dominated for the last decade, except at the Olympics.

If she does run in the 100 and hurdles, Devers would face the possibility of six races, counting the qualifying heats, in the first five days of the Olympic track competition. Besides, she already is a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 100.

If Devers withdraws from the 100, the next in line would be Jones, who was fifth in the trials and qualified for the U.S. team only in the long jump. Jones has been training for the 100 during her work at the relay camp in Munich this week.

Edwards would be the second U.S. sprinter thrown off the Olympic team this month because of a drug suspension. Calvin Harrison, part of the U.S. relay pool, was suspended Monday for two years for a second doping violation.

Edwards became the world 100-meter champion when Kelli White was stripped of the medal after acknowledging she had used steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. White was banned for two years.

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