Taurasi's contract in Turkey terminated; status for 2012 Olympics in danger

Jan 7 2011 - 5:47pm

HARTFORD, Conn. -- The uncertainty caused by Diana Taurasi's two positive tests in Turkey for the banned stimulant modafinil resulted Thursday in the termination of her contract by her European team, Fenerbahce.

Team officials made the decision after the Turkish Basketball Federation announced the results of the second doping test on its website. Taurasi had been suspended by the federation once the first positive test was revealed.

To replace Taurasi, Fenerbahce signed Angel McCoughtry, the former Louisville All-American, who plays for the WNBA's Atlanta Dream.

Seton Hall coach Anne Donovan, the longtime WNBA coach who led the United States to a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said Thursday she has been in touch with Taurasi.

"It's a difficult situation for Diana to have to rely on a foreign agency and a lab that has struggled with issues (of accuracy) to determine her guilt," Donovan said. "That's extremely difficult for her to accept. I have reached out to her and passed along my support.

"I feel she is a tremendous role model and is in a difficult position. This agency somehow has the right to make these tough career-changing decisions for her. She has my full support."

If found guilty of taking the medication, which is outlawed by the IOC, Taurasi, the former UConn star, could face a ban of up to two years, which would cost her hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps some endorsements and keep her off the U.S. team, coached by Geno Auriemma of UConn, at the 2012 London Olympics.

The process of determining Taurasi's innocence could take eight months, primarily because of a long appeals process and the suspicion centering on the credibility of the Turkish lab that did the testing. Two of Taurasi's Fenerbahce teammates, Penny Taylor and Hana Horakova, resisted doping tests in Turkey until the Turkish authorities agreed to have their samples tested in Germany.

Even if Taurasi's usage is determined unintentional, which might result in a lesser ban, IOC rules would likely prevent her from playing for Team USA in 2012. The IOC bars any athlete given a doping penalty of six months or more from competing in the games.

"It seems completely ludicrous to me that a foreign lab could control the future eligibility of a U.S athlete," Donovan said. "How could we let another country determine that for us? But I don't know enough about how it will all move forward. I just hope our country would not rely on a Turkish drug-testing agency that has struggled to determine Diana's future.

"I would hope that we don't allow that to happen."

Taurasi has helped lead the United States to gold at the past two Olympics and was the leading scorer when the U.S. won the world championship last summer in the Czech Republic.

On Tuesday, Auriemma said Taurasi had told him she did not take modafinil and that he believes his former All-American.

Taurasi led the WNBA in scoring for a league-record fourth straight year, averaging 22.6 points last season. She is a five-time All-Star and two-time WNBA champion who signed a new contract with the Phoenix Mercury last season. The Mercury, the WNBA and USA Basketball have all refused comment on Taurasi's situation.

 

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