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Haitian President Preval visits AfroCuban athlete Sotomayor
by Karen Lee Wald, 10/2/99

Haitian President Rene Preval made a startling and much-welcomed gesture of solidarity with Cuba's beleagured high-jump champion Javier Sotomayor when he paid a surprise visit to the athlete's home  today.

Sotomayor, considered the greatest high jumper in the history of the sport, was disqualified after winning the gold medal in the Pan-American Games held in Winnipeg when anti-doping tests reputedly found him positive for cocaine use. Stupified coaches and team mates struggled to make some sense of the results, which they were certain could not be true but unwilling to believe would have been intentionally falsified -- until three other teammates also received false test results.

The weightlifters who tested positive in Winnipeg for the steroid nadrone, however, were luckier than Sotomayor: nadrone is a drug that remains detectable in the blood and urine for months after its use, and subsequent "blind" retests in laboratories in Spain and Portugal showed that the three were "clean". Sotomayor -- who swears he has never touched cocaine (or any other drug) in his life, and has been tested hundreds of times in his various competitions -- is not so fortunate, because cocaine disappears very quickly, and by the time the Cubans were informed of his supposedly positive test results, he was back in Cuba and it was too late to send blood or urine samples to another country to be tested.

Teammates, coaches, and other sports figures who have known Sotomayor back the legendary high-jumper, and many drug experts have since told the Cuban government and sports federation -- which is refusing to suspend Sotomayor -- that if Sotomayor had ingested the amount of cocaine allegedly found in his blood in Canada, "he couldn't have gotten out of bed, much less won a gold medal in the high jump that day".

Now Preval, in Cuba on an official state visit, is apparently adding his name to the many throughout the world who are supporting the black athlete. Before leaving Sotomayor's home, the Haiting president expressed his wish that "justice be done" in the case of the accused athlete.
Karen Lee Wald
3ra A #15205 e/ 152 y 154 Nautico, Playa Habana, Cuba
Tel. (537) 218072

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