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Cuba stands behind Sotomayor's plea

Cuba on Friday pledged to defend the honor of high jumper Javier Sotomayor, charging that the positive drug tests that cost him his Pan Am gold medal were part of a larger campaign to discredit the communist government _ possibly by the CIA or Miami exiles.

The Cuban government "will defend to the end the integrity and honor of Sotomayor and any other honest athlete like him," the Communist Party daily Granma declared in an extensive front page story.

Sotomayor denies knowingly ingesting the cocaine that showed up on drug tests in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He and Cuban authorities have suggested that his food or drink may have been laced with the drug.

"We absolutely trust the word of Javier Sotomayor because he has won the right to be believed," more than the laboratory that did the test, and more than the facilities at the Games where "the hands of the CIA or the anti-Cuban mafia could introduce a dose of a prohibited substance in any food or liquid," the article said.

"This could come, surely it comes, from farther away, as part of the strategy that has been going on for decades to harm and discredit the Cuban Revolution."

Pan Am medical officials have said they are concerned only with the positive drug test, not how the drug got into his urine.

The Sotomayor case is the biggest drug scandal in track and field since Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was suspended and stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for an anabolic steroid at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The world indoor and outdoor record-holder and only man to clear 8 feet won his fourth Pan Ams gold in the high jump July 30.