SYDNEY, Australia - Romania has returned its remaining two medals in the Olympic women's all-around gymnastics competition to protest Andreea Raducan's loss of her gold medal for taking cold medication containing a banned substance, Romanian national television reported today.
"The gold, silver and bronze medals have been returned although initially (coach) Octavian Belu favored keeping the gold and silver medals which the Romanians would have won anyway," Romanian TV said in the report from Sydney.
Belu was reported to have said that 16-year-old Raducan had decided to give up gymnastics, television said. Belu could not be reached for further comment.
The 4-foot-10, 82-pound Raducan was stripped of her gold from the women's all-around Tuesday after she tested positive for pseudoephedrine, a banned stimulant. She is the first gymnast ever to be stripped of a medal because of a drug violation.
The action by the International Olympic Committee's executive board meant that Raducan's teammate Simona Amanar moved up to get the gold, while Romanian Maria Olaru got the silver. Liu Xuan of China then got the bronze.
Raducan has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and a hearing was scheduled for Wednesday.
The Romanian team doctor who gave her the drug was expelled from the games and suspended through the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake and 2004 Summer Games in Athens.
"In the fight against doping, we have to be tough and be blind to emotions and feelings," said Francois Carrard, the International Olympic Committee's director general.
Raducan was allowed to keep her gold from the team competition and silver in the vault final. But losing the all-around gold was crushing for the wispy teen, whose dark coloring and pixieish charm evoked memories of Nadia Comaneci, Romania's last Olympic darling.
Even the IOC acknowledged that Raducan's case is not like most others. She took a common cold medicine, and it provided "no competitive advantage at that competition," Carrard said.
Some 400 students, some chanting "Give the medal back," marched through the southern Romanian city of Craiova on Tuesday demanding that Raducan's gold be returned to her.
"Thrown out for having a cold," read one poster.
Romania has waited 24 years for a gymnast who could captivate the world like Comaneci, who scored the first perfect 10 at the Montreal Olympics in 1976.
The Romanians have won dozens of Olympic medals since then, but could never capture the all-around, the biggest prize on sport's grandest stage.
Performing to "Riverdance" on Thursday, Raducan pranced across the floor, a wide, infectious smile on her face. She looked almost like Peter Pan as she tumbled, flying across the floor with ease. When she finished, she ran to coach Octavian Belu and climbed onto his shoulders, waving and blowing kisses to the crowd.
It wasn't just her presence on the floor that charmed fans. Raducan, who turns 17 on Saturday, has a wonderful, childlike naivete. When she came into the news conference after winning the all-around, she perched at the edge of Olaru's chair instead of taking the seat reserved for her at the middle of the table.
Told the place of honor was hers, the gold medalist said she thought it was for her coach.
"It's like having a dream, a nice dream," Raducan said then. "I still feel like I'm in this dream."
It quickly became a bad dream.
All medalists are tested for drugs, and Raducan's sample after the all-around came back positive. The level of drug in her urine was 90 nanograms per milliliter, more than three times greater than the 24 nanograms per milliliter allowed by the IOC.
She also was tested after winning a silver in the vault Sunday. That sample was negative. She was not tested after the team competition Sept. 19.
"We're all devastated, but I can't imagine how she feels," said Comaneci, who now coaches gymnastics in Norman, Okla. "Because she's kind of a victim of a thing she didn't have any control of. ... She's a victim of a mistake of the doctor."
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