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Boxing panel suspends Vargas

Despite putting himself at the mercy of the Nevada Athletic Commission in Las Vegas, Fernando Vargas on Wednesday was suspended from boxing for nine months and fined $100,000 for testing positive for steroids after his Sept. 14 loss to Oscar De La Hoya.

Though the suspension is retroactive to Sept. 14, Vargas cannot fight until June 15 and will miss a proposed April fight that was to be aired on network TV.

Vargas spent two hours in front of the commission, telling it he took responsibility for the positive test but he never knowingly used steroids.

Commissioners hinted they believe it was inadvertent but voted 4-1 to penalize Vargas and send a message that steroids won't be tolerated. It was believed to be the first time a boxer has been suspended for steroid use, although Francois Botha was stripped of his IBF heavyweight title in 1995 for testing positive in Germany.

"I'm a man. I take full responsibility," Vargas said. "The only thing is the layoff is definitely going to be hard."

COLLEGES: A federal judge declined to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two former women's soccer players against North Carolina. Any trial is expected to be at least a year away. Melissa Jennings and Debbie Keller say coach Anson Dorrance asked questions about their sex lives and the sexual activities of teammates. Keller also said Dorrance made unwanted phone calls and physical contact.

GYMNASTICS: Courtney Kupets finished second in the uneven bars and Ashley Postell second in the vault in qualifying at the world championships in Debrecen, Hungary. Kupets was .162 behind Svetlana Khorkina, Postell .119 behind Natalia Ziganshina. The first men's qualifying session is today.

_ TIMES WIRES, BRIAN LANDMAN

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