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Belarus: Minsk In New Olympic Dispute, This Time Over Drug Finding

Minsk, 19 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Belarusian sports officials today objected to the positive drug test results found for one of their competitors at the XIX Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Sport Minister Alyaksandr Grigorov said the drug test, which showed that cross-country skier Julia Pavlovich had used the banned steroid nandralone, was full of "procedural errors."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) nevertheless refused the Belarusian request for a new test for the skier.

The IOC has dismissed Pavlovich from the games, along with Yaroslav Barichko, the head of Belarus's Olympic delegation. Barichko is accused of helping the athlete evade a second drug test, after examiners said the original urine sample had been improperly sealed.

The IOC is also suspending its annual $120,000 grant package to the Belarusian team.

Grigorov complained on 12 February that Olympics organizers were providing the Belarusian team with substandard food and accommodations, prompting a formal protest from President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who is also head of the country's Olympic Committee.

"The food they [Belarusian athletes] receive is in no way up to standard for Olympic athletes," Grigorov complained, adding that the team was being given "sandwiches...and various hamburgers."

Grigorov said he believed the Belarusian Olympians were being given "substandard" food primarily because they were housed outside the Olympic village, but also because of discriminatory practices against countries not favored by the United States and the Salt Lake City organizing committee.

State-controlled Belarusian television the previous week reported that Olympic organizers had forbidden Belarussian TV crews from covering Olympic events, citing "security" fears.