RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian sprinter Sanderlei Parrela, silver medallist behind Michael Johnson in the 400-metre event at last year’s World Championships, has failed a drugs test, the Brazilian Athletics Confederation (CBaT) said on Tuesday.

Parrela, who immediately proclaimed his innocence, tested positive for the banned steroid norandrosterone, following the Rio de Janeiro Grand Prix meeting on 14 May, said a statement signed by CBaT general secretary Martinho Nobre dos Santos.

The statement said the CBaT had been told by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) that both the A and B samples, examined by a laboratory in Montreal, had tested positive for the substance. Parrela, 25, has been automatically banned pending a final hearing. If the hearing confirms the test findings, he could be banned for two years and would therefore miss the Sydney Olympic Games starting in September.

‘I cried a lot. Today I have no tears left to cry,’ Parrela told Globo television from the United States, where he is training.

‘I can’t understand how this happened to me. I would never take a prohibited substance. I want to prove my innocence and take part in the Olympics.’

Parrela clocked 44.29 seconds behind the 43.18 world record set by Johnson at the World Championships in Seville.

Controversy

The case could re-open the on-going controversy surrounding athletes’ use of dietary supplements.

The statement said that Parrela had nominated a specialist, David Black, to attend the examination of the B sample in Montreal along with his coach Luiz Alberto de Oliveira.

‘After examining the B test, Dr Black informed that, in his opinion, the athlete had not committed a doping infraction,’ the statement said.

‘The specialist emphasised that it is known by doping control laboratories, including the one in Montreal, that supplements which are available and sold commercially contain chemical elements which cause positive tests for 19-NA and 19-NE (steroid precursors).’

It added: ‘But the makers of these supplements do not identify the substances on their labels and it is very likely that the athlete Sanderlei Parrela has, through lack of knowledge, consumed a substance containing these elements, which caused the positive test.’

The substances 19-Na and 19-Ne are chemical precursors of the controversial steroid nandrolone and were specifically added to the International Olympic Committee’s list of banned substances early last year.

Several British athletes have tested positive for nandrolone in the last two years including former Olympic sprint champion Linford Christie and Scot Doug Walker.

The IAAF is facing at least three special arbitration hearings in August, one involving Christie, in cases involving nandrolone findings that have been linked to possible use of dietary supplements by athletes.

Brian Homewood Reuters

Source: SOCOG