Pan Am Legacy in Cuba

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at
Mon Aug 23 16:12:00 MDT 1999

Javier Sotomayor: "I am the Victim Of A Dirty Trick"

HAVING stripped Javier Sotomayor of his gold medal in the high jump, the
Pan American Sports Organization (ODEPA) has also declared Cuban weight
lifters William Vargas (62 kilograms) and Rolando Delgado (67 kilograms),
positive for (anabolic) nandrolona, a result that is doubted by José Ramón
Fernández, Cuban vice president and president of the National Olympic

"We need to verify this for ourselves," Fernández declared in Winnipeg, as
reported by the German DPA news agency. "We are radically opposed to
doping," he noted.

As for the world long jump record holder, he is awaiting the decision of
the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), whose president,
Primo Nebiolo, informed the French sports daily L'Equipe:

"The Sotomayor case appears to be complicated by the fact that the Cubans
are saying that there was an intention to create problems for them. I don't
know if that's true, but what I can affirm is that the Cuban team has been
treated unbelievably at Winnipeg. There were attempts to get hold of
certain Cuban athletes to appropriate them for themselves. What would the
Pan American Games be without the Cubans? A third-class competition. avana
always sends its finest champions to the Games. As far as Sotomayor is
concerned we're awaiting information. If he was effectively positive, we
will sanction him.... We will be inflexible."


In his home in Miramar, Javier Sotomayor talks calmly but his face reveals
how much he has been affected:

"In my sports career I have jumped 2.30 meters more than 300 times since
1984, when I did it for the first time. I can assure you that I'm capable
of jumping 2.30 meters without any sleep the night before. I don't need any
stimulant for that. I am the victim of a dirty trick."

During the Winnipeg Pan American Games, the Cuban delegation claimed
multiple provocations and aggressions.

The climax to all of that came in baseball. Initially, Cuba lost two games,
against the United States and Canada. In the semi-final, its team
confronted Canada again, this time playing not only to pass into the finals
but for the classifying ticket to the Sydney Olympics.

Cuba was winning 4-1 in the last innings when a man ran onto the field and
proceeded to insult the Revolution. At that moment not one police agent
appeared to detain the intruder and it was the Cuban players themselves who
went after him.

After the game, the Cuban delegation made a complaint about this incident.
Its team wound up winning the game in spite of the players having
completely lost their concentration as a result of the incident, thus
winning the right to compete in the Sydney Olympics. To crown their glory,
the following day, they won the Pan American title by defeating the U.S.
side in the final game.

Prior to the start of the Games, Canada's ambition was to finish ahead of
Cuba in second place by country, behind the United States. When the gold
medal was withdrawn from Sotomayor, Canada recouped two golds for its
representatives Kuaku Boateng and Mark Boswell, who tied in second place.
With those three extra points, the host country was threatening Cuba by
just two gold medals.


After the Sotomayor case was announced, the Cuban people, who lived to the
rhythm of the Pan American Games for 15 days, almost forgot their baseball
team's historic victory and talked of nothing else but Sotomayor.

The world champion is aware of that and stresses: "I've  really felt bad
since they told me the news. However, the testimony of solidarity that I've
received from the people and from friends, my family and the sports
authorities, the government and even from abroad, has helped a lot."

The island's television channel transmitting the entire games showed part
of the press conference given by the Cuban doctors in Winnipeg, in which
Mario Granda, in charge of the delegation's medical team together with
Rodrigo Alvarez Cambras, affirmed: "We all believe in Sotomayor's word."

Raquel, an office worker and Sotomayor fan, indignantly affirmed: " I can't
believe it. They've invented yet another pack of lies to humiliate us."

Ernesto, a teacher, stated with conviction: "They put something in his
drink or food. After so many years at the highest level and with his
experience, I can't believe that Soto would commit such an error."

Diego, a journalist colleague, stressed: " In this harassment of Cuba so
much money is being wielded that anyone could have received a sum for
manipulating the results of the test or for putting something in
Sotomayor's food."


It's a fact that talent scouts constantly offered incredible sums to Cuban
athletes in Winnipeg to remain in that country. It's said that Omar
Linares, perceived as the island's best amateur baseball player, was
offered $40 million USD to play in the major leagues.

For his part, six-times world boxing champion Félix Savón informed Granma
International: "I didn't even go to Winnipeg and a certain press article
mentioned that I'd been besieged, how about that? And if I had gone, they'd
definitely have besieged me with offers, like they always do. I know
Sotomayor and I'm convinced that it's an anti-Cuban fabrication."

Ana Fidelia Quirot, world champion in the 800 meters, told us angrily:
"Ever since I heard, I've been feeling bad, as if they'd done something
similar to me. I know that Javier doesn't need to take anything to be the
best high jumper in the world. I hope he reacts well and goes on training
with a view to Seville, where I hope they let him compete and that he'll
return with another gold for Cuba. The only thing I'd like to transmit to
him is what we Cubans say: `people aren't measured by the times they fall
but by the times they get up.'"

At home, Javier is constantly receiving testimonies of friendship from
other athletes, like volleyball player Alain Roca, former high jumper
Silvia Costa, ex-runner Lázaro Martínez and former boxer Teófilo Stevenson,
to name just a few.

Nobody knows what sanction Sotomayor is subject to; the IAAF is awaiting
information from the Cuban Federation, but as Humberto Rodríguez, president
of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Leisure
(INDER), affirmed in a press conference in Winnipeg: "Cuba has a lot to
say. We believe in Sotomayor. For Sotomayor we wouldn't just put our hand
in the fire but our heart as well."


The national media is receiving incessant calls and messages of support for
Sotomayor and has dedicated significant space to the case with eloquent
headlines like the Granma daily front-page editorial: "The mire thrown in
Winnipeg can never stain us."

In the article, the Cuban journalist stresses: "What a coincidence that
this maneuver occurred after Fidel's convincing exposé during his
Cienfuegos 26th of July speech of the anti-Cuban Mafia who are blocking
potential cooperation agreements with the United States aimed at
eliminating the trafficking of this and other harmful narcotic substances.

"What a large coincidence that, with this fabrication, the host country has
been given two gold medals while Javier Sotomayor's gold medal has been
taken from Cuba, and with that, the first place in athletics that we had
won with such an outpouring of dignity and courage!

"We have absolute confidence in Javier Sotomayor's word because he has
earned the right to be believed, much more so than what could be believed
of laboratories... ," affirms the Granma colleague.

"What laboratory or institution responsible for guaranteeing the total
purity and objectivity of anti-doping tests couldn't be penetrated by the
intelligence services of the North?" he asks.

Meanwhile, Sotomayor is still in shock over the incident: "I can tell you
that, after the death of my trainer José Godoy, this news is the worst
thing that's happened to me. I feel as if the sky's fallen in on me, I want
it all to be over but, on the other hand, I have the impression that it's
never going to end."

He pauses and adds: "I don't know if I'll be able to participate in the
Seville World Championships; for now the only thing that worries me and
makes me feel really bad is thinking that one sole person could doubt me."


THE organizers of the Pan American Games must inform the IAAF of the result
of the control test carried out on Cuban athlete Javier Sotomayor, but
cannot immediately make the decision to sanction him.

That same organization informed the French daily L'Equipe: "This matter is
incumbent on the Cuban Federation and it is responsible for sanctioning or
not any athlete declared positive. It is not incumbent on the IAAF to
sanction the athlete in the first instance."

If Sotomayor is sanctioned by the National Federation, he can appeal to
that body, then to the IAAF medical council and ultimately to the IAAF
arbitration council.

If he is not sanctioned by the Cuban Federation, Sotomayor will be able to
participate in competitions until the IAAF has completed its investigation
and pronounces.

Given that the Seville World Athletics Championship commences on August 21,
there are two possibilities.

1. If the IAAF does not pronounce a provisional sanction, Sotomayor can
participate in the Seville meet knowing that if the IAAF finds him guilty
of doping, he would be disqualified from the championship.

2. If the IAAF considers that the National Federation has been too lax, it
could apply article 58-2 of its regulations and announce the athlete's
suspension. In that case, Sotomayor would not be allowed to participate in
the Seville World Championships.

(Granma International)

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