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U.S. champ Mitchell suspended for 2 years, can run in Olympics

Former University of Florida sprinter Dennis Mitchell, the U.S. 100-meter champion, was suspended for two years Tuesday for failing a drug test 16 months ago but will be eligible for the 2000 Olympics.

Track and field's governing body said his test showed high levels of testosterone. Mitchell's lawyer said Tuesday that the sprinter has never taken testosterone or any other banned substance.

"He's clearly very disappointed and very upset," attorney Suja Thomas said. "He has always been against the use of drugs in track and field. This is truly a severe disappointment to him."

A call to Mitchell's home in Gainesville was answered by his wife, who said he was not there.

The IAAF arbitration panel concluded that Mitchell, the 100-meter bronze medalist in the 1992 Olympics and two-time bronze medalist at the World Track and Field Championships, was "guilty of a doping offense" and had no right of appeal.

"This decision is final and binding," said Giorgio Reineri, a spokesman for the International Amateur Athletic Federation.

Reineri said he did not consider this a light punishment.

"This is the rule for everybody," he said. "According to our constitution, a ban starts the day after the positive doping test."

The IAAF said Mitchell will be ineligible from April 1, 1998, until March 31, 2000. Any performances by Mitchell during that period are "null and void."

Mitchell, 33, can run in the Sydney Games, which begin in September 2000. But he will miss the World Championships this month at Seville, Spain, despite winning the U.S. title in June at Eugene, Ore.

JOHNSON'S APPEAL: Sprinter Ben Johnson met with top officials from the IAAF in Monte Carlo, Monaco, in a last-ditch bid for reinstatement before his fate is decided at the end of the month. He tested positive for drugs in 1993. The three-man group, led by IAAF General-Secretary Istvan Gyulai, will recommend to the body's council whether to allow Johnson, 37, back into competition. If the council, which meets Aug. 17, decides against Johnson, there is no possibility of an appeal.