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[an error occurred while processing this directive] Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 17:00 GMT
Gymnasts protest drug innocence
 Irina Chashchina
Chashchina is blaming tainted food supplements
World rhythmic champion Alina Kabayeva and silver medallist Irina Chashchina have denied intentionally taking banned substances at the Goodwill Games.

The gymnasts, who led Russia to gold in the team event at last month's world championships in Madrid, tested positive for furosemide.

But the pair said that the substance was in a food supplement which they were using before the Australian event, which took place between 29 August and 9 September.

"I was shocked when I heard this," Kabayeva, who won five golds in Madrid including the overall crown, told a news conference.

Doping is totally useless in our sport, especially anabolic steroids
Irina Viner
Russian coach

"I've known about food supplements, but I had no idea what's in them because it's the doctor who always tells us what to take."

Furosemide, a diuretic which takes fluid out of the body, is prohibited by the International Olympic Committee and most international sports federations because it can be used as a masking agent for anabolic steroids.

Chief Russian doping expert Nikolai Durmanov told Reuters news agency that the specific food supplement used by the gymnasts was legal, but their trainer bought a counterfeit product by mistake.

"Unfortunately, drug counterfeiting is a big problem in our country and often even a specialist like myself can hardly distinguish a real product from a fake," he said.

Fair verdict

Russia's head coach Irina Viner said that it was important not to jump to conclusions until the results of the B sample were known.

"There is a rule which states any athlete is considered innocent until the second test confirms the initial result," she said.

"Doping is totally useless in our sport, especially anabolic steroids, so you have to be really stupid to use it.

"I hope the International Gymnastics Federation will take into account all the evidence and will give a fair verdict.

"But if not, we're prepared to go all the way to the sport's highest court to seek justice."

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