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Women gymnasts getting it together

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 31, 2000


ST. LOUIS -- Nine months ago, American gymnasts were reeling, embarrassed by losing to even the once-lowly Australians at the World Championships.

Well, well, well. Look who's pulling it together.

Elise Ray, Kristen Maloney, Jamie Dantzscher, Vanessa Atler and Alyssa Beckerman showed at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships last weekend that they're ready to make a run at the medals podium. And along with some rust, the remaining members of the Magnificent Seven displayed glimpses of the talent and pizzazz that won them a gold medal four years ago in Atlanta.

"I was at the '99 World Championships, and it doesn't even look like the same group of athletes," said Mary Lee Tracy, who coaches three of the athletes in the top 10. "The talent level was there for the last two years, but it just wasn't coming together.

"Tonight, you saw it coming together."

The top 12 women advanced to next month's Olympic trials in Boston. Shannon Miller and Jaycie Phelps are petitioning for spots after withdrawing from Saturday night's all-around final with injuries. So are Jeanette Antolin and Amanda Stroud.

The combined, weighted scores from nationals (40 percent) and trials (60 percent) will be used to rank the women gymnasts. But they won't be binding. Instead, the selection of the six-person team will be left to a committee headed by Bela Karolyi, who came out of retirement after the worlds to be the national team coordinator.

DRUG TEST GUARANTEES: Faulty drug tests in Britain's leading laboratory have led UK Sports, the government body that oversees sports in Britain, to demand guarantees they will not be repeated, according to news reports.

Rodney Walker, the chairman of UK sports, told the British weekly Sunday Telegraph that if the credibility of the King's College laboratory -- Britain's only IOC-accredited laboratory -- were to slip much further, UK Sport could start sending its athlete's urine samples to be tested in other countries.

Run by David Cowan, King's College laboratory has come under fire since it was discovered it had badly processed a urine sample given by 400-meter runner Mark Hylton.

Hylton, whose sample tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone, was eventually cleared of wrongdoing.

DRUG TESTS ON TRIAL: Olympic athletes should know this week whether drug testing at the Sydney Games will include tests for the banned hormone EPO.

The International Olympic Committee meets today and Tuesday to study two competing tests and decide whether either or both are reliable enough to use in Sydney.

The urine-based control developed in France and the blood-sampling method devised in Australia will be reviewed to determine whether they meet scientific and legal standards.

A test for EPO, or erythropoetin, has so far eluded researchers trying to find a test for one of sport's most abused performance-enhancing drugs, which is used by some athletes to boost stamina. BANNED DRUG STOLEN: Syringes containing EPO have been stolen from an Australian hospital and police fear the drugs could wind up on the black market before the Games. About 1,000 syringes, estimated to be worth millions of dollars if sold illegally to athletes, were stolen from a storeroom at Alice Springs hospital in central Australia last week, investigating detectives told the Australian Associated Press.

MONTENEGRO WANTS SPLIT: Montenegro's athletes no longer will compete on Yugoslav Olympic teams after the Sydney Games. Instead, Montenegrin officials will use the Sydney Games to lobby the IOC to recognize the pro-Western Yugoslav republic as a sovereign state with its own flag and teams, said Rade Djurdjic, the head of the Montenegrin Olympic Committee. The plan is the latest step toward a full break between Montenegro and Serbia, which together form all that is left of Yugoslavia after the country disintegrated in ethnic wars in the 1990s.

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