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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 16:38 GMT

Hays medal bid rocked

Todd Hays' hopes of ending the United States' 46-year wait for an Olympic bobsleigh medal have received a massive blow after team-mate Pavle Jovanovic tested positive for drugs.

Hays has led the US two-man and four-man teams to a number of successes in this year's World Cup.

Preparations for the Salt Lake City Games looked to be going smoothly until Hays' brakeman Jovanovic tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance on 29 December.

Jovanovic has now been banned from the Olympics and will not be allowed to compete unless his appeal succeeds. He vehemently denies taking any banned substance.

If his appeal fails then his absence from the squad will be a massive hurdle for the US to overcome.

Hays himself has already been stripped of one World Cup title because of the events surrounding Jovanovic.

Jovanovic was part of Hays' team when he won a World Cup race at St Moritz, Switzerland on 13 January.

Hays has been stripped of that victory and the 36 World Cup points that went with it seeing him slip from third to joint 10th in the overall end of season standings.

Even before the uproar surrounding Jovanovic, Hays admitted the task of leading the US to a medal was an uphill one.

"I'm reminded of the pressure every 10 minutes," said Hays, a former kickboxer who was US champion in that sport in 1993.

"If I can chase down my Olympic dream - I can live content for the rest of my life"
Todd Hays

"To beat a German or a Swiss for a gold medal at the Olympics would be a huge achievement."

And he says success on the World Cup circuit does not come close to the prestige of racing at the Olympics.

"You can't compare the two," added Hays.

"If I can chase down my Olympic dream, I can live content for the rest of my life."

The Americans will face stiff opposition from Germany, who along with driver Christophe Langen, won the two-man and four-man titles at the 2001 World Championship.

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