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N. Koreans in doping trouble

Third-place game: Marie Hammarstrom, left, celebrates after giving Sweden a 2-1 lead late in their win over France.

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Third-place game: Marie Hammarstrom, left, celebrates after giving Sweden a 2-1 lead late in their win over France.

FRANKFURT, Germany — North Korean officials blamed traditional musk deer gland medicine used after a lightning strike for five positive tests for steroids at the Women's World Cup, the biggest soccer doping scandal at a major tournament in 17 years.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Saturday that after two players were caught this month, the world soccer governing body took the unprecedented step of testing the rest of the North Korean squad and found three more positive results.

"This is a shock," Blatter said. "We are confronted with a very, very bad case of doping, and it hurts."

A North Korean delegation told Blatter and the head of FIFA's medical committee Saturday that the steroids were accidentally taken with traditional Chinese medicines based on deer glands.

"The North Korean officials said they didn't use it to improve performance. They said they had a serious lightning accident with several players injured and they gave it as therapy," said Michel D'Hooghe, chief of FIFA's medical committee. "It is not systemic because not all of the players took it. We would have found it with the others, too."

The case will be taken up by FIFA's disciplinary committee. Players face a ban of as long as two years.

Defenders Song Jong Sun and Jong Pok Sim tested positive for steroids after North Korea's first two group games and were suspended for the last match. The team was eliminated in the first round.

Blatter said the North Korean federation "wrote to us, and they presented their excuses. They said that a lightning strike was responsible for this."

The names of the three other players will be made public later, FIFA said.

FIFA annually spends about $30 million on 35,000 doping tests. Despite the cases at the Women's World Cup, "doping really is a marginal, fringe phenomenon in football," Blatter said.

The last doping case at a major event came at the men's 1994 World Cup in the United States, when Diego Maradona was kicked out after testing positive.

Sweden strikes late in third-place game

SINSHEIM, Germany — Marie Hammarstrom scored in the 82nd minute, giving shorthanded Sweden a 2-1 victory over France in the third-place game.

Down a player for almost 15 minutes after Josefine Oqvist was sent off for kicking Sonia Bompastor in the chest, Sweden won a corner kick that the French cleared at the near post. But the ball popped out to Hammarstrom, who faked out a defender with a small side-volley, touched the ball a second time then let fly with a left-footed strike from the edge of the box.

Lotta Schelin staked Sweden to a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute, and France equalized in the 56th minute on Elodie Thomas' strike.

N. Koreans in doping trouble 07/16/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 16, 2011 8:36pm]
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