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Monday, 21 August, 2000, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Protest over Sotomayor comeback
Sweden, Denmark and Norway have filed a joint protest over the International Amateur Athletics Federation's (IAAF) controversial decision to reduce high jumper Javier Sotomayor's doping suspension.
The world record holder was stripped of his gold medal at last year's Pan American Games in Canada, after testing positive for cocaine.
The IAAF suspended the Cuban for two years, but reduced it to one year earlier this month, citing "exceptional circumstances" and an exemplary 15-year career.
The two-time world champion and 1992 Olympic gold winner was allowed to resume competitions immediately after the IAAF decision, and is eligible for the Olympics in Sydney next month.
But the Nordic countries are furious with the decision and decided to protest after a meeting on Sunday.
"We just made an unanimous decision," said Swedish Track and Field Federation chairman Bengt Westerberg.
Finland is also likely to join the protest, said Antti Pihlakoski, secretary general of the Finnish federation.
The initiative came from Denmark's track federation last week, the day after Sotomayor made his comeback at a French meeting.
"We have agreed to send a protest to the IAAF in the next few days," said Norwegian federation president Anne Thidemann.
"It's important to emphasise our dissatisfaction."
Pihlakoski said the Finnish federation's board had not yet discussed the Danish proposal but added: "We are very much anti-doping and we usually stick together in the Nordic countries."
Two days after the reduced suspension, IAAF vice president Arne Ljungqvist accused Sotomayor of failing an out-of-competition test.
"I know that he tested positive a few times and I think that he should still be suspended," said Ljungqvist, a doctor who is the IAAF's top anti-doping official and a member of the International Olympic Committee.
But since a positive result for a stimulant such as cocaine is not considered an offence when it is taken out of competition, the IAAF arbitration panel was not advised of the second positive result.
Sotomayor, who denies ever using cocaine, trained regularly in Havana during the suspension.
After the Olympics, he aims to clear his name completely.
In his first big meeting last Friday, the Cuban won in Monte Carlo by clearing 2.3m. He holds the world record at 2.45m.
Danish track federation chairman Thomas Thomsen said he and others were concerned other IAAF members did not pay enough attention to Ljungqvist.
Patrik Sjoberg - the retired Swede who held the world high jump record before Sotomayor broke it in 1988 - is among those to criticise the IAAF's decision.
"If you test positive and get suspended, you shouldn't get a reduced sentence just because you're a famous track athlete," said Sjoberg.
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