July 21, 2005

Michael Johnson keeps gold after court ruling

By Robert Woodward

LONDON (Reuters) - Five years after the Sydney Games,
American Michael Johnson was told by a court in Switzerland on
Thursday that he could keep the last of his five Olympic gold

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld an appeal
by U.S. athletics officials to end a lengthy battle over the
golds won by Johnson's squad in the 4x400 meters relay in 2000.

Athletics' world ruling body, the IAAF, had recommended to
the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that the American
squad be stripped of their medals because of a doping violation
by squad member Jerome Young in 1999.

Thursday's decision means Johnson and four other members
keep their gold medals from the event but the court recommended
that Young, subsequently banned for life for another doping
offence, should lose his.

The IAAF said it was extremely disappointed with the CAS
decision which it regretted but would accept as final and
binding. American Olympic and athletics officials welcomed the

The court said IAAF rules in force at the time of the
Sydney Games did not allow for a whole team to be disqualified
because of the actions of one of its members.

"In conclusion, the (court's) panel decided that on the
basis of the IAAF rules applicable at the time of the Sydney
Games, the results of the men's 4x400m relay event at the
Sydney Games should not be amended and that only Jerome Young
in the U.S. team should be stripped of his gold medal," it

Lausanne-based CAS had ruled in 2004 that Young should not
have been allowed to run in Sydney because of the 1999 positive
test for the anabolic steroid nandrolone, which carried a
two-year ban at the time.


A secret hearing of a U.S. appeals panel had decided to
ignore the positive test and allow Young to run in Sydney.

Following CAS's decision in 2004 the IAAF decided that the
U.S. result should be annulled and Nigeria, who finished
second, given the relay gold medal.

The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) disagreed that the entire
team should be penalized and appealed to CAS, whose decisions
are binding, to order the IOC and IAAF to "to desist in their
efforts to change the results."

The IOC, which has the final say over Olympic races, will
discuss whether Young loses his medal next month, before the
world athletics championships starting in Helsinki on August 6.

Young was banned for life after a 2004 positive test for
the banned blood-boosting substance EPO. Twins Alvin and Calvin
Harrison, who also ran in the Sydney relay and will keep their
medals, are currently serving suspensions for doping

The court said on Thursday: "The CAS Panel noted that the
IAAF rules in force at the time of the Sydney Games did not
provide for the annulment of results obtained by a team, when a
member of that team was found later to have been ineligible to
compete at the time of the event.

"The arbitrators considered that the interpretation made by
the IAAF of the rules in force in 2000 was not correct."

The U.S. Olympic Committee said the ruling was important
because it protected the rights of Olympic athletes.

"This case was about the proper application of rules by an
international sports federation and the preservation of due
process for athletes at the Olympic Games," USOC said in a

USA Track & Field said: "Now that a decision has been
rendered, the sport can continue to move forward in a positive

The relay gold made it a perfect five for Johnson.

He had helped the U.S. win the 4x400 meters relay with a
world record at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, then added golds
two and three in Atlanta with a world record in the 200 meters
-- one of the great Olympic performances -- and victory in the
400 meters.

He won the 400 meters at Sydney in a repeat performance of
Atlanta, becoming the first man to achieve this double.