US Wrestler may get Gold After All

Tuesday, October 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) _ The U.S. freestyle wrestling team left Sydney without a gold medal, the first time that's happened at the Olympics since 1968.

On Monday, two weeks after the Summer Games closed, the Americans learned they will almost certainly get a gold medal after all.

The IOC medical commission recommended that Germany's Alexander Leipold be stripped of his gold after testing positive for the steroid nandrolone.

If approved as expected by the IOC's ruling executive board, the gold will go to Brandon Slay of Amarillo, Texas.

Leipold, a two-time world champion and four-time European champ, failed a mandatory drug test after defeating Slay 4-0 in the 167 1/2-pound gold medal match on the final day of the games Oct. 1.

Leipold appeared at a hearing of the International Olympic Committee medical commission, which was investigating two positive drug cases in wrestling from the final weekend of the games.

The other wrestler accused of doping was Mongolia's Oyungbileg Purevbaatar, who tested positive for the diuretic furosemide after finishing fifth in the 127 3/4-pound class.

The IOC panel recommended that he be disqualified and his results wiped off the books.

Slay was en route to Gruver, Texas, a town of 1,300 near the Texas-Oklahoma line, for an assembly at an elementary school and was unavailable for comment. Others, however, said they were elated at the news.

``It's wonderful,'' said Johnny Cobb, his coach. ``I tell you what, we have a gold medalist over here at our school. It looks pretty certain. It's such a feeling of elation for our school, our city, our state and the whole nation.''

Leipold would become the third Olympian from Sydney to lose a gold medal for a drug offense, after a Bulgarian weightlifter and a Romanian gymnast tested positive during the games.

South Korea's Moon Eui Jae would move up from the bronze medal to silver, while Turkey's Adem Bereket would go from fourth to third.

Slay would be the second U.S. athlete to win a gold because of a drug disqualification in Sydney. Tara Nott became the first American to win a gold in weightlifting in 40 years when Bulgaria's Izabela Dragneva was disqualified after winning the 105-pound class.

With his wife crying by his side, Leipold said he had no idea how he could have tested positive for nandrolone, an anabolic steroid that has produced a spate of drug scandals around the world in recent years.

``It's not the kind of drug you take for wrestling,'' he said. ``I don't wrestle with power but with tactic and technique.''

Prince Alexandre de Merode, chairman of the IOC medical commission, said Leipold's sample showed 20 nanograms of nandrolone per milliliter of urine. The limit is 2 nanograms per milliliter

``When you find 10 times more than the fixed limit, we believe the case is clear,'' de Merode said. ``The presence of the drug is clear.''

De Merode said the recommendations would be made to IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, who was traveling Monday to Sydney for the Paralympics.

He said Samaranch will arrange a conference call with the IOC's four vice presidents, or the entire 15-member executive board, to act on the two cases, probably within a few days.

Leipold said he is befuddled at what has happened.

``I was tested before at the end of August and was clean, negative,'' he said. ``I know I was the favorite for the (gold) medal. I won the world championships three times. It's terrible, it's not logical for my sport.

``You wrestle for 26 years and you make medals step by step. In Germany I'm always tested out of competition. Every time, I'm clean.''

Asked about the prospect of having the gold medal taken away, Leipold said, ``I'm hopeful because I don't take anything, but they have their rules.''

Jim Scherr, executive director of U.S.A. Wrestling, said the decision was ``a very bad thing for Leipold'' but was proper given the test results.

``He took some shortcuts and cheated,'' Scherr said. ``We thought Brandon was very deserving.''

Mike Moran, spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee, said the ruling underscored that Slay ``was the best freestyle wrestler in the world at that weight.''

The Mongolian wrestler did not attend the hearing and was not represented by anyone. De Merode said Purevbaatar sent a statement saying he did use furosemide, but a month before the games.

The drug test results for the two wrestlers came in Oct. 3, after most athletes and officials had left Sydney.

The two wrestling cases brought to 11 the number of positive tests reported by the IOC during the Sydney Games _ nine from in-competition drug controls and two from out-of-competition screening.

The 11 positives are the most at the Olympics since 12 were recorded at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.