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Games rocked by doping scandal and missing athletes

By Julian Linden

MELBOURNE- The Commonwealth Games suffered a double blow on Friday after it was confirmed that two Indian weightlifters had failed doping tests and half the Sierra Leone team had disappeared.

Officials announced that Raju Edwin and Tajinder Singh had both tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid Stanozolol while Australian police began searching for the missing athletes after the government issued a warning to competitors seeking asylum.

Australia won gold medals in diving and athletics to extend their massive lead at the top of the standings but Indian pistol shooter Samaresh Jung missed his chance to break Ian Thorpe and Susie O’Neill’s record of six gold medals when he lost a three-way shootout.

Australia had 67 golds midway through the ninth day of competition to hold a comfortable lead over England (24), India (20), Canada (17), South Africa (11) and Scotland (10).

Commonwealth Games Federation President Mike Fennell told a news conference that Edwin and Singh had tested positive at an out-of-competition test before the Games began on March 15.

Singh withdrew from the Games, citing an injury, while Edwin finished fourth in the 56 kilogram division.

The Indian team’s chef-de-mission H.J. Dora said he was surprised by the test results but promised the penalties would be severe if the two men were found guilty when they front the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Saturday.

“All of our athletes are counselled on the use of banned substances and are fully aware of the consequences should they be found using them,” he said.


Police said another four athletes from war-ravaged Sierra Leone had fled the Games village in suburban Melbourne, bringing the number of missing athletes from the African country to 11.

A Tanzanian boxer and a Bangladeshi runner were also reported missing earlier in the week but Australia Prime Minister John Howard said athletes should not assume they would automatically be granted political asylum.

“I don’t want any other athletes who might be thinking along those lines to imagine all you have to do is stay behind and we will keep you. No, it doesn’t work that way,” Howard told Australian radio.

Australia’s Duane Cousins lost a silver medal when he was disqualified for lifting four kilometres from the finish in the men’s 50km walk.

The gold went to his team mate Nathan Deakes who lapped the entire field to complete the 20km-50km double for the second time.

New Zealand’s Tony Sargisson and Australia’s Christopher Erickson finished second and third despite being warned for lifting as well.

“I didn’t think I was breaking the rules but unfortunately the judges did,” Cousins said. “I’m bloody disappointed but it’s part of the sport.”

Jung had already won five golds to give himself a shot at a record seven but was off target in his penultimate event, losing a shootout to finish third behind Singapore’s Shaw Ming On and New Zealand’s Gregory Yelavich.

Although he cannot set a new record, Jung will at least get a second his chance to equal Thorpe and O’Neill, both Australian swimmers, in his final event on Saturday.

“It did come into my mind before the final,” he said. “But we’ll see what happens tomorrow.” — Reuter

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