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Pan Am Roundup

August 2, 1999

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) _ It was a day Canada would like to forget and both Cuba and the United States will remember for a long time.

Canada lost a gold medal Sunday because roller hockey goalie Steve Vezina failed doping test. The Cubans and Americans qualified for the 2000 Olympics in baseball with tense victories.

And the Canadians were the victims against the two-time defending Olympic champion Cubans, losing 3-2. Then the U.S. team of minor leaguers needed 10 innings to defeat Mexico 2-1 and also earn a berth in the Sydney Games in America’s national pastime.

Vezina, who plays ice hockey for the Utah Grizzlies of the IHL and also is a professional roller hockey player, tested positive for two stimulants and ``an enormously high level″ of an anabolic steroid. It was the first doping incident at these games.

``Yesterday (Saturday) there was a rumor about a positive-doping athlete,″ Mario Vazquez Rana, president of the Pan American Sports Organization, said. ``As president of PASO, I apologize. We have to keep our rules and abide by our rules.

``Steve Vezina gave a positive result . . . we decided to withdraw the gold medal from the winning team, Canada.″

The United States, which lost 7-6 to Canada in the gold medal game, was awarded the championships, with Argentina moving up to second and Brazil to third.

Vezina said after a preliminary round loss to Team USA that he lost 12 pounds during the game at Max Bell Arena, which is not air conditioned. He played well in the final after a shaky start, and was especially strong in the last 10 minutes, blanking the Americans.

``It’s unfortunate,″ teammate Jeff Leiter said. ``What he did hurts all of us.″

The drug test showed three banned substances: ephedrine, pseudo-ephedrine and Nandrolone. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are stimulants used to avoid fatigue. Nandrolone is an anabolic steroid that increases muscle mass.

Vezina said at his drug test that he had taken Sudafed prior to competition. Many hockey players use Sudafed as an energy boost, and it is not banned in professional ice hockey leagues.

``It comes as a big shock ... Steve is not an abuser of anabolic steroids,″ said Lou Franceschetti, his coach with the Buffalo Wings of Roller Hockey International, which does not have a substance abuse policy.

``Until we have a chance to gather all of the facts and speak to everyone involved, Steve Vezina is scheduled to be in goal Friday against Dallas,″ Wings vice president of operations Benny Gulakiw said.

Late Sunday night, the Canadian Broadcasting Company reported Juana Rosario, the winner of the women’s high jump, tested positive for illegal substances. The CBC said her A sample came out postive and now her B-sample must be tested. If it comes back positive as well, she would be stripped of her medal.

Games officials would not comment on the report.

Also Sunday, Royal Canadian Mounted Police officials confirmed that an athlete had sought asylum and was turned over to immigration authorities. Sources close to the Cuban team, on the condition they not be identified, said the athlete was a runner Cuba’s 4 x 100 relay team, but would not give his name.

The sources also said two more Cubans, a soccer player and a rhythmic gymnast, asked for asylum this weekend.

That would bring to seven the number of Cubans to leave that nation’s delegation to the games; six have sought asylum.

With only one gold medal awarded Sunday _ Brazil beat Cuba in women’s volleyball for that medal _ the United States remained far ahead with 173, 70 gold. Canada has 101 and 30, while Cuba is at 90 and 33.

For all of their preliminary-round woes, the Cubans still made the Olympics in baseball. They avenged an 8-1 drubbing at the hands of the host team in pool play and face the United States on Monday for the gold medal.

The Americans, who last Wednesday beat Cuba for the first time in a major tournament since 1987, got four perfect innings of relief from Dan Wheeler and an RBI single by pinch-hitter Mike Neill.

``Last year I had a major arm injury and made it to the big leagues,″ Neill said. ″ That was a long road back and finally getting there was an individual thing.

``This is by far better as a team member, representing your country and trying to get USA baseball into the Olympics. I think we were a little tight. But it’s awesome playing for your country and then getting the big hit to help the team win.″

During the ninth inning of Cuba’s semifinal, a spectator carrying a sign saying ``Human Right First″ ran onto the field. He was chased by two Cuban players who came out of the dugout, then tackled by Cuba second baseman Juan Padilla. He then was escorted out of the stadium by security.

``The guy made us all look bad,″ said Canada left fielder Aaron Guiel, who struck out looking to end the game. ``But what is great about the U.S. and Canada is that you have the freedom to do that. I don’t agree with what he did and I also don’t agree with Cuba’s politics, either.″

After Luis Lazo got the final two outs, the Cubans swarmed their hefty relief pitcher and several players ran around waving their flag.

The Cubans did not comment after the game, but their actions made it clear how relieved they were to qualify for the gold medal game _ and for Sydney.

Hours after their worst loss ever at the Pan Ams, the U.S. women’s basketball team awoke early Sunday and beat the Dominican Republic 92-80 to clinch a berth in the medals round. The women (2-1) had lost to Cuba 95-64.

Only two U.S. baskets came from outside 10 feet _ a pair of 3-pointers by Michelle Marciniak, who scored 16 points. Lynn Pride, driving the baseline at will, led the Americans with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

The Dominican’s Teresa Duran led all scorers with 33 points.

The American men edged Brazil 73-71. Travis Williams made a layup with 22 seconds left for the go-ahead basket and Doug Smith followed with a key block.

The United States beat the Dominican Republic in three sets for the women’s bronze medal in volleyball.

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