Fiery Track Star Flees Sydney Games in Tears
SYDNEY, Australia (Reuters) France's Olympic track star Marie-Jose Perec was flying back to Paris Friday after fleeing the Sydney Games in tears saying a man had threatened her in her hotel.
In another development that overshadowed the sporting action, Bulgaria's weightlifting team said it may pull out of the Olympics after traces of banned substances were found in dope tests on two more of their medallists.
Perec, one of the world's top athletes, ran into more trouble during a stopover in Singapore, where her American fiance Anthuan Maybank was involved in an airport fracas with a television cameraman trying to film them.
Singapore police launched an investigation but said later they would take no further action following a directive from the attorney-general's office.
``Listen, to me, if you come near me I will hurt you, you understand,'' Maybank is captured on tape as saying. ``I'm going to whip your ass,'' he adds.
Australian Channel 9 television news director Paul Fenn said Maybank had hit the cameraman ``behind the ear and generally whacked him.'' The cameraman was shaken but not hurt, Fenn said.
Perec's bizarre departure robbed the Games of one of its most eagerly awaited clashes, a 400 meters showdown with Australia's top Aboriginal athlete Cathy Freeman (news web sites) who lit the Olympic cauldron to start the Games.
The scourge of drugs returned to haunt the Games Friday when Bulgaria's weightlifting team said they may pull out of the Olympics after traces of banned substances were found in dope tests on two more of their medallists.
Women's 48-kilogram gold medalist Izabela Dragneva and men's 62-kilogram bronze medalist Sevdalin Minchev were both found to have traces of diuretics in their A samples, said Beltcho Ivanov, the Bulgarian National Olympic Committee's secretary general.
Ivanov said the B samples would be tested later Friday and, if also found to be positive, the Bulgarian team would consider pulling out of the Games.
Wednesday, Bulgarian men's 56kg silver medallist Ivan Ivanov was stripped of his medal and thrown out of the Games after testing positive for diuretics.
Diuretics help to eliminate fluid from the body and are used by competitors to lose weight quickly in sports with weight categories.
Beltcho Ivanov and Bulgarian Olympic Committee president Ivan Slavlov attended an International Olympic Committee (news web sites) (IOC) doping commission meeting in the early hours of Friday.
``(Later on Friday) we will discuss the question,'' Ivanov said. ``Maybe we will decide to cancel the whole Bulgarian weightlifting team.''
At the Olympic Homebush Bay pool, Inge de Bruijn gave her rivals another trouncing to win her second title of the Games while world champion Jenny Thompson (news web sites) claimed a historic ninth Olympic medal.
In the men's events, Lenny Krayzelburg (news web sites) completed a backstroke double to match his feat at the 1998 world championships and hoisted the U.S. swimming tally to nine with a commanding victory in the men's 200 meters backstroke.
Thompson, who scooped the seventh relay gold in a career spanning three Olympics Wednesday, picked up a bronze when she finished third equal with fellow American Dara Torres (news web sites), way behind De Bruijn, in the women's 100 freestyle.
Thompson, who took silver in the event at the 1992 Barcelona Games, now has nine Olympic swimming (news web sites) medals, which in purely numerical terms takes her past the great Australian Dawn Fraser (news web sites), East German Kornelia Ender and fellow American Shirley Babashoff.
No American woman has won more Olympic medals in any sport, winter or summer.
The United States collected a remarkable eight out of 13 medals awarded in the pool on the sixth day of the eight-day championships but once again it was De Bruijn who stole the spotlight.
De Bruijn's Day
The 27-year-old Dutchwoman led the 100 freestyle final by just 0.04 seconds at the turn from Swedish European champion Therese Alshammar but forged away down the return length to win by the large margin of half a second.
De Bruijn won in 53.83 seconds, with Alshammar taking the silver in 54.33 and Torres and Thompson sharing bronzes in 54.43.
Top tennis seed Lindsay Davenport of the United States went out with an injured foot.
The athletics for many what the Olympics are all about is due to begin Friday but Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey (news web sites) looked doubtful for the 100 meters, after catching flu.
But the big talking point all day was the fiery French athlete Perec.
The Sydney hotel where Perec, a triple gold medallist, was secluded said it had no evidence she was harassed. ``We have no evidence whatsoever of any incident that we can prove via our security analysis,'' said spokesman Peter Holt.
Perec's sponsor Reebok said she had decided to leave after a man forced himself into her hotel room and threatened her.
Perec, 32, won the 400 meters title at the 1992 Barcelona Games and then scored a 200-400 meters double four years later in Atlanta. She has been plagued by illness and injury since Atlanta and raced only twice this year.
Perec, who has always had a difficult relationship with athletics officials and the media, had been under a great deal of pressure ahead of her expected showdown with Freeman.
She lived up to her reputation in Sydney by shunning the French athletics team's official news conference Tuesday. She also irritated French officials by declining to join their team training camp in the Sydney suburb of Narrabeen.
French team officials slammed her decision to flee the Sydney Games. ``The most suitable phrase to use in this tale is that she left like a thief,'' said French athletics federation president Philippe Lamblin.