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Doping Agency Questions Action on Rowers

March 9, 2004

LONDON (AP) _ The World Anti-Doping Agency is investigating the decision of rowing’s governing body to give a reduced ban to three Austrian rowers who tested positive for steroids.

WADA said Tuesday it believed the rowing federation had ``misapplied″ sanctions under the World Anti-Doping Code by imposing six-month suspensions rather than two-year bans.

The agency said it was ``greatly disturbed″ the rowers could qualify for the Athens Olympics. WADA said it would investigate and may report the rowing body, FISA, to the International Olympic Committee for failing to comply with the doping code.

Martin Kobau, Helfried Jurtschitsch and Norbert Lambing, members of Austria’s lightweight four crew, tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone in August in WADA out-of-competition controls.

The three were banned for six months by rowing body FISA on Jan. 25. Their backdated ban ended Feb. 20, clearing the three to pursue a place on the Austrian rowing team for the August Olympics.

FISA said the rowers received a lesser ban for negligence, saying they had taken contaminated nutritional supplements.

FISA president Denis Oswald and executive director Matt Smith wrote to WADA on Tuesday saying the sanctions were ``fair and proportionate″ and that WADA had ``no right whatsoever″ to appeal its decision.

The three rowers were tested by WADA on Aug. 1, 2003, at an Austrian training camp. They originally were suspended Aug. 21 and banned from the world championships that month after testing positive for norandrosterone, a metabolite of nandrolone.

``The rowers had consulted the list of ‘safe’ nutritional supplements published by their National Anti-Doping Agency and National Anti-Doping Laboratory before taking the product,″ Smith said. ``It was on the list of safe products but it was not safe at all.″

FISA endorsed the World Anti-Doping Code in March 2003 and later agreed to implement the rules from Jan. 1, 2004.

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