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Olympic notes

Drug cheaters will be put to the test in Beijing

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By John Powers
Globe Staff / July 29, 2008

Now that the Olympic village is open in Beijing, it's open season on dopers. Until the Games end Aug. 24, any Olympic participant can be tested anywhere at any time without notice, even more than once a day. There'll be 4,500 drug tests during the Games, up from 3,600 in 2004, with 900 involving blood and up to 800 urine samples for erythropoietin (EPO). The top five finishers in each event, plus two more, will be tested. International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge estimates that the combination of more and better testing will catch as many as 40 cheaters, up from 26 in Athens. If the IOC comes up with a future test for a currently-banned substance, it can take away medals until 2016.

If US swimmer Jessica Hardy, who tested positive for the banned anabolic Clenbuterol at the trials, is removed from the Olympic team, three events will be affected - the 50-meter freestyle, the 100 breaststroke, and the 400 freestyle relay. Since it's too late to add third-place finishers Tara Kirk and Lara Jackson to the roster, Rebecca Soni will swim the 100 breast and Kara Lynn Joyce the 50 free if Hardy loses her spot. Hardy, who had a good chance at two medals in Beijing, said she's baffled by the lab result and insists she's clean.

Yesterday, cyclist Marta Bastianelli, who is scheduled to compete for Italy in Beijing, tested positive for a banned substance, according to Italian news reports, and Danish mountain bike champion Peter Riis Andersen was barred from the Games for testing positive for EPO.

After selling the final 250,000 tickets last Friday while police fended off an estimated 30,000 would-be buyers who stormed a downtown kiosk, the Beijing Games were declared a sellout yesterday with the opening ceremonies 11 days off. Until now, no Olympics has been SRO, but the Chinese managed to unload a record 6.8 million ducats, with more than half of them going for $12.90 or less. Athens, which had 1.5 million fewer seats, sold only two-thirds of them.

All eyes on Kai

Abby Wambach's broken left leg was a huge blow to the US women's soccer team's chances of defending its Olympic crown. Wambach, who fractured both lower bones when she collided with Brazil's Andreia Rosa in the squad's final Games tuneup, netted the gold-medal-winning goal in Athens and is the team's leading scorer. The burden now falls to fellow forward Natasha Kai, the Hawaiian phenom who has 11 goals this year. The squad, which arrived in China last week, already is training in Qinhuangdao for its opener with Norway and will watch the opening ceremonies on TV, as it did in Athens. The 400-mile round trip (and hours standing waiting in the heat) makes marching impractical.

The US Olympic men's soccer squad includes a dozen members who've played for the full national team, including its three youngest members in Freddy Adu (19), Michael Bradley (20), and Jozy Altidore (18). The three over-age players are 36-year-old Brian McBride (a three-time World Cup forward but first-time Olympian), Revolution defender Michael Parkhurst, and goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Lone opening to Sloan

As team coordinator Martha Karolyi hinted at last month's Olympic trials, only one spot on the women's gymnastics team was decided at the recent Houston camp and Bridget Sloan got it, beating out former global medalist Jana Bieger (who fell twice on bars) and Ivana Hong, who was on last year's gold-medal team. Winchester's Alicia Sacramone, Chellsie Memmel and Samantha Peszek were virtual locks to join Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin. Shayla Worley, the world teamer who'd been battling a bad back, literally got the unluckiest of breaks when she fractured her right fibula during warm-ups. Danvers native Corrie Lothrop, a 16-year-old who was born in China, was named an alternate along with Bieger and Hong.

Dominique Moceanu, who was one of the Magnificent 7 gold medalists in 1996 in Atlanta, called for Karolyi's removal as coordinator during an interview with HBO's Real Sports, criticizing the tough training program and dietary restrictions that Karolyi and husband Bela had in place when they ran the team then. "I know it can be done in a healthier way physically and emotionally," said Moceanu, whose 2006 comeback after a six-year absence was derailed when USA Gymnastics refused her petition to compete at the national championships because she was out of shape. "I think the majority of the girls certainly feel very proud they were able to train those many years and be dedicated and deal with the sacrifices," retorted Karolyi.

Among those inducted recently into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame was the 2003 women's team, the first to win the world title. Besides Memmel, who made the team for Beijing after missing out in 2004, the squad included Athens all-around victor Carly Patterson, Courtney Kupets, Terin Humphrey, Tasha Schwikert, and Hollie Vise.

Been there, won that

The US Olympic track-and-field team, which figures to top the table in Beijing, includes 15 Olympic and 31 world medalists, including Athens victors Shawn Crawford (200 meters) and Jeremy Wariner (400) and global champions Allyson Felix (200), Bernard Lagat (1,500 and 5,000), Tyson Gay (100), Brad Walker (pole vault), Reese Hoffa (shot put), and Kerron Clement (400 hurdles).

USA Track & Field chose a non-thinclad for its new chief executive officer, tapping former MLS commissioner Doug Logan to replace Craig Masback after a three-month search. "We were looking for someone with vision, with leadership, with a thick Rolodex," said president Bill Roe. Logan, whose office sports a picture of himself in clown makeup as a reminder not "to take myself too seriously," wasted no time dashing off a letter to President Bush, urging him to reject Marion Jones's plea for a pardon or commutation of her federal sentence for lying to investigators. "In my new job . . . I must right the ship that Ms. Jones and other athletes nearly ran aground. I implore you, Mr. President: Please don't take the wind out of our sails."

Lords willing?

Katerina Thanou may be on the Greek track team, but the Lords of the Rings will decide whether she'll get to compete in Beijing. The 33-year-old sprinter and 2000 silver medalist, who served a two-year ban for skipping a test on the eve of the Athens Games, has to get the green light from the IOC's disciplinary commission, which might not happen until next week . . . Anna Cummins mistakenly was described as a new face on the US Olympic women's rowing team in the last notes column. Cummins has the same face as Anna Mickelson, who won a silver medal in the 2004 eight and a gold at last year's worlds, but a new married name.

Roster moves

The US Olympic baseball team, which is made up almost entirely of major league farmhands, had to change three players after pitchers Geno Espineli (Giants) and Clayton Richard (White Sox) were called up and outfielder Colby Rasmus (Cardinals) was hurt. Replacements are pitchers Jeremy Cummings (Rays) and Brian Duensing (Twins), and outfielder Nate Schierholtz (Giants). "We are lucky to get who we have because of the pennant races and getting guys with major league experience," says manager Davey Johnson, whose squad is drawn from 14 clubs. Notably absent is anyone from the Red Sox or Yankees organizations. Top name is outfielder Matt LaPorta, whom the Indians obtained from the Brewers as part of the CC Sabathia trade . . . Mary McConneloug's consistency got the Chilmark resident named to the Olympic mountain biking team. The 37-year-old finished 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th in this year's first five World Cups . . . There's plenty of five-ringed experience on the US Olympic indoor volleyball teams, with the women's squad featuring eight Athens veterans and the men's seven. Setter Lloy Ball and middle blocker Danielle Scott-Arruda each were named for the fourth time. Joining defending champions Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor on the beach team will be Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs, whose runnerup finish at the Moscow Grand Slam earned them enough points to sew up the second spot. The men's teams will be world champions Todd Rogers-Phil Dalhausser and Jake Gibb-Sean Rosenthal. The third-ranked men's indoor team is going to the Games on a high after knocking off Serbia in Rio de Janeiro last weekend to win its first World League crown.

Material from Olympic committees, international and domestic sports federations, interviews and wire services was used in this report.

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