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Wednesday, 27 September, 2000, 19:22 GMT 20:22 UK
Romania rallies round Raducan
By BBC Sport Online's Adrian Harte
While there has been much hand-wringing and feelings of disgust at the spate of positive drug tests during the Sydney Games, one drugs ban has caused outrage in Romania.
The Central European country has had mixed fortunes in the Games. Its highly-impressive haul of ten golds has been tarnished by a wave of expulsions of top athletes from the Games.
Weightlifters Traian Ciharean and Adrian Mateas were expelled for positive tests and the entire 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.
Then, on Wednesday, world hammer champion Mihaela Melinte was escorted from Stadium Australia just before she was due to compete. She had been entered by her national federation despite testing positive for the steroid nandrolone.
However, the biggest controversy has surrounded the golden girl of the Romanian team Andreea Raducan. On Tuesday, Raducan was stripped of her gold medal in the Individual Gymnastics after she tested positive for pseudo-ephedrine.
She has been allowed to keep the gold she won in the team event and the silver from the individual vault competition.
Pseudo-ephedrine is a stimulant found in many common cold remedies, and Raducan was given two Nurofen tablets by Romanian team doctor Ioachim Oana to fight off the effects of 'flu.
However, a widespread campaign has been launched in Romania to clear Raducan's name. On Wednesday, the Court of Arbritation in Sport (CAS) heard her appeal and a decision will be announced on Thursday.
Romanian Olympic Committee (ROC) President Ion Tiriac said: "It would be ridiculous if this case was to become history - as a gold medal lost because of two aspirins sold in any drugstore in the world against no medical prescription - is a medicine that is not enhancing but diminishing performance.''
And the general populace shares Tiriac's indignation. The mayor of Barlad, Raducan's home town, promised her a triumphant welcome home, while demonstrations calling for re-instatement took place in Craiova, Deva, the headquarters of Romania's Olympic gymnastics training centre, and Bucharest.
Meanwhile, Raducan's mother Simina said her "soul had been torn apart" by the news from Sydney. "My Andreea would never cheat," she told Prima TV.
"What is very confusing and all the newspapers in Romania write about it is the fact that in the team event she was okay, then the next day in the individual she tested positive and then in the apparatus final she was okay again.
The elfin Raducan, who celebrates her 17th birthday this weekend, had captured the imagination of the Romanian public as the first gymnast from the country to win the individual Olympic gold since the legendary Nadia Comenici triumphed in Montreal in 1976.
Indeed, as Raducan stands to miss out on a US$ 15,000 handout promised to all Romanian gold medallists, the COR launched a fund-raising drive to compensate the athlete.
Prime Minister intervenes
And on Wednesday, Romania's Rompres agency reported that Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu signed a memorandum granting US$30,000 dollars to Raducan from the premier's reserve fund.
The ROC's Cristian Gatu said that the Ford Mondeo car, promised to the all-round Olympic champion had already been inscribed with Raducan's name and her performance.
He said: "Even officials of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have said that she is innocent and so I see no reason for us to punish her."
A COR statement said: "The indolence of the staff in charge of providing proper medical assistance...has compromised all the efforts of the young and beautiful Raducan."
And Romania's physicians' association (CMR) said it would launch an inquiry into Oana.
"He made a capital mistake which has had a huge impact, mainly on the spirit of this child," CMR president Mircea Cinteza said. "If found responsible, he might be stripped of his right to practise."
The CAS discussed the case for six hours on Wednesday and even IOC members agree that Raducan's punishment is harsh. Direcor General Francois Carrard said: It's tough, but in the fight against doping, we have to be tough and refrain from emotions and feelings."
However, if the decision does not go Raducan's way, Sydney might well mark the end of her career.
Arntofi said: "There is a risk she might quit. This is not an unofficial confirmation but many journalists feel that she might give up gymnastics."
Detailed reports on world sport's major challenge
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