Edmonton Eclipsed by Drugs-Use Allegations

EDMONTON, Canada Ч The world championships provided a depressing reminder that some athletes regard dangerous chemistry and not coaching as the fastest way of getting to the finish line first despite new drug tests.

Performance-enhancing drugs Ч some old and notorious, others new and dangerous Ч dominated the talk around the World Championships that finished Sunday.

Athletics witnessed the drama of an Olympic champion threatening a boycott because a rival was involved in a drugs scandal, a trackside protest from a top athlete about stamina-boosting erythropoietin, or EPO, and fans booing a gold medalist.

The governing body of athletics had announced three positive tests at the championships by Sunday although the analysis of all samples taken at the event had yet to be completed.

Other athletes, including one from the host country Canada, were unable to compete because they had failed drug tests before the event began 11 days ago.

Hours before the opening ceremony, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said doping was the biggest threat to the credibility of sports.

"If tomorrow the mothers don't want to send the kids to the sports clubs because they fear they will get drugs, it's the end of the popularity of sports," he said.

Parents may have already made the decision after seeing evidence for the first time that blood-boosting EPO Ч a drug that can kill athletes in their sleep Ч is being used in athletics.

Another positive test showed that stanozolol, the notorious steroid at the center of the 1988 Ben Johnson scandal, is still in the sport 13 years after the Canadian sprinter was thrown out of the Seoul Olympics for taking the drug.

Romanian javelin thrower Ana Mirela Termure and Belarussian runner Natalya Sologub failed drug tests for steroids in Edmonton after failing to make an impact at the championships.

Canadian women's 100-meters champion Venolyn Clarke tested positive for stanozolol in an out-of-competition test. The test was particularly embarrassing for the host country because of the drug's link with Johnson.

But the most striking positive test involved an athlete who has yet to be identified by the sport's governing body because all the testing procedures have not been completed.

For the first time, testers have caught an athlete using EPO, which increases the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The substance can be fatal when an athlete's heartbeat drops during sleep because it thickens the blood.

Russian Olga Yegorova tested positive for the drug after the Paris Golden League meeting last month but was cleared to compete because the test did not conform to IOC standards.

When she won the 5,000-meters final Saturday, she was booed by sections of the crowd and did not run the customary victory lap. The booing continued during Sunday's medal ceremony.

The 29-year-old Russian denies using EPO and passed another test for the substance in Edmonton.

But Olympic champion Gabriela Szabo had threatened to boycott the 5,000 if Yegorova was allowed to compete. The Romanian decided to run, finishing out of the medals. Afterward, however, she said she did not regard Yegorova as the world champion.

Before Thursday's heats, British team captain and world cross country champion Paula Radcliffe and teammate Hayley Tullett also protested against the Russian, holding up a sign in the stands that read "EPO Cheats Out."

It will remain one of the most striking images of the championships.