By Duncan Mackay  

altAugust 2 - The International Olympic Committee today stripped the United States 4x400 metres team, which included Michael Johnson, of the gold medals they won at the 2000 Games in Sydney.

It follows the admission by another member of the team, Antonio Pettigrew, that he was using banned performance-enhancing drugs at the time.

Johnson had said in June he was returning the gold medal he had won anchoring the team because he felt it was tainted.

It means that Johnson has now won four Olympic gold medals, rather than five.

When Pettigrew admitted in May during the trial of former coach Trevor Graham trial that he had been doping during that time, it meant that, except for Johnson, everyone who ran on that relay squad, including twins Alvin and Calvin Harrison and Jerome Young, either had acknowledged taking or been banned for using drugs.

It is the second time that the team have been stripped of the medal.
The IOC first took it away in 2004 when it emerged that Young, who had run in the heats, should have been banned at the time having failed a drugs test earlier but had been incorrectly cleared by USA Track & Field.
But the team went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and in 2005 were successful in overturning the decision.
The IOC said in a statement: "The Executive Board of the International Olympic Committeem meeting today in Beijing at its final meeting before the 2008 Olympic Games, has reached a decision in the case of Mr. Antonio Pettigrew, a member of the US team who placed first in the men's 4x400 relay at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
"Mr Pettigrew has since admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs while competing in Sydney and subsequently returned his medal.
"Further to the recommendations of the IOC Disciplinary Commission, the EB has disqualified Mr Pettigrew from the events in which he competed at the 2000 Olympic Games (4x400m relay, 1st place team, and 400m, 7th place).
"Mr Pettigrew is now ineligible for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and further sanctions may be taken against him pending the outcome of the ongoing BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative) investigation.
"In a related decision, Mr Pettigrew’s teammates in the US men's 4x400m relay team suffered as a result of his doping offence, as the team were formally disqualified from the 4x400 meters relay event at the 2000 Olympic Games.
"All medals and diplomas awarded to the team must now be returned to the IOC, via the US Olympic Committee.
"A decision on reallocating the medals and diplomas of those affected by these decisions will be made at a future meeting of the IOC Executive Board."
If the medal is re-awarded then Nigeria will be promoted to the gold medal position, Jamaica the silver and Bahamas the bronze.
The IOC also said: "Doping is a serious threat to the integrity of sport.
"Mr Pettigrew’s case illustrates that, by choosing to dope, an athlete also jeopardizes his own and his teammates’ achievements."
The full texts of both decisions are available here:

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