By Phillip Whitten
October 16. FIVE Italian gold medalists at the Sydney Olympic Games, including swimmer Massi Rosolino, tested positive for human growth hormone (hGH)in doping tests conducted before the Olympic Games, according to a story in the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera last weekend. Rosolino won the 200 IM in Olympic record time, finished second in the 400 free in European record time, and third in the 200 free.
Four US athletes were impacted by Rosolino's alleged drug-taking. In the 200 IM, Rosolino won the gold with the USA's Tom Dolan and Tom Wilkens earning silver and bronze. In the 400 free, Rosolino was the silver medalist, as the USA's Klete Keller placed third. And in the 200 free, Rosolino just out-touched the USA’s Josh Davis for the bronze.
All four American athletes would move up a spot if Rosolino's results were to be invalidated. Dolan would be the gold medalist in the 200 IM, making him a double winner, and Wilkens would be second–another one-two US sweep. Keller would move up from bronze to silver in the 400 free, and Davis would move up to the bronze medal spot from fourth in the 200 free.
Beside Rosolino, the other Italian athletes with astronomical hGH levels are cyclist Antonella Bellutti, canoeist Josefa Idem Guerrini, rower Agostino Abbagnale and fencer Giovanna Trillini, the paper alleged.
According to the report some of the results were more than 30 times the normal level of growth hormone. Rosolino allegedly had 17 nanograms of hGH in his blood—about fifteen times the normal level—as did Bellutti. The other athletes scored even more irregularly: Guerrini, 34nanograms, Abbagnale and Trillini both 13.6; Belluti scored "only" 10.6.
The results were known by September 8, one week before the opening of the Sydney Games, but were never made public. Later, Raffaelle Pagnozzi, secretary general of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) denied that any Sydney medalist appeared on the of athletes testing positive. "No Olympic medal winner figures on the list signalled by the commission," he stated.
Rosolino threatened legal action if he was accused of doping, saying "I am alien to any implication in the phenomenon of doping. Scientific tests will confirm my remarks and I am ready to defend my image in the law courts." Along with the rest of Italy’s national team, Rosolino was tested in Verona on June 22.
The Italian Olympic Committee, whose medical commission performed the tests, slammed the publication's decision to publish the allegations, claiming the necessary process had not been completed. A CONI statement said: "We are facing up to morally irresponsible behavior that heavily damages human dignity.
"The non-definitive documents, containing the 'first analyses' of the scientific commission, were immediately sent by CONI to Italy’s Health Minister [Umberto Veronesi] for all the necessary follow-up work and checking necessary under the profile and parameters adopted."
The five gold medalists are among 61 athletes who have allegedly yielded positive test results out of 538 tested in a CONI campaign called "I take no risks with my health".
All five competitors are believed to have passed the mandatory tests carried out on all medalists at the Olympics. However, no tests were performed for human growth hormone.
Files concerning the 61 positive tests have been sequestered by Judge Raffaelle Guariniello, who is leading a legal probe into doping in sport. A copy of the findings has also been sent to Italy's Minister of Health.
Today, CONI president Gianni Petrucci again denied that any of Italy’s Sydney gold medalists were guilty of doping offenses and vowed to take measures to protect the image of the athletes named in weekend newspaper reports.
Speaking in Rome, Petrucci said: "It is not a case of doping but only of research work by the (CONI) Scientific Commission. CONI will protect with every means the image of the "azzurri" athletes. "Azzuri' athletes have only obtained their success through work and their sporting sense. Our medals are clean."
Meanwhile Rosolino toady repeated the statement he made to Swimming World in Sydney: "My only doping is with spaghetti and parmesan cheese. It hardly seems worth while denying these poisonous allegations. In any case, with the other athletes who have been targeted in this circus we are trying to organize ourselves legally and we will sue somebody. Now we are turning the matter over to a lawyer for the necessary advice. There will be a lawsuit and I hope all my teammates will be involved with it. Whoever has raised this cloud of dust now it is just that they take the consequences and in the event pay for it."