CALGARY, FEB. 21 -- Poland's best hockey player was barred from the Winter Olympics and suspended from international competition for 18 months with no chance for appeal after he tested positive for a high level of testosterone, the substance usually associated with steroid use, the International Olympic Committee announced today.
Jaroslaw Morawiecki, a 24-year-old forward considered to be the finest Polish player over the last decade, became the first athlete of these Games barred for using a banned substance.
The suspension was recommended by the IOC's Medical Commission and unanimously adopted by the executive board. Jan Ake Edvinsson, secretary general of the International Ice Hockey Federation, announced Morawiecki's ban from international competition.
The IOC also said Poland would forfeit two points it earned in a 6-2 victory over France on Thursday, ending the team's chances of reaching the medal round.
Poland, one of the tournament's surprise teams, did not use Morawiecki in its 4-1 loss to Switzerland on Saturday after Polish officials were told he had failed a drug test taken after the game against France. In team sports, the IOC selects four players for random drug testing after an event. If a test turns up positive, the athlete is retested.
IOC spokesman Michele Verdier said today the high level of testosterone, a naturally occurring male hormone, amounted to "a way of cheating, a fraudulent use."
Leszek Lejczyk, the Polish coach, said the entire team was tested before it left for Calgary on Jan. 24 and that no players tested positive.
"I am convinced it was not intentional," Lejczyk told the Associated Press. "I talked to him. He is the best hockey player. He doesn't need any extra incentives like drugs."
Zbigniew Glapa, mission chief of the Polish delegation, said, "We are eliminating the fact he took it himself. There is one possibility, that the drug was given to him in some sort of a drink or some food."
Lejczyk said his player was not randomly selected for the drug testing but was "pointed out -- you go." The coach was not able to identify the person who pointed out the player.
Verdier said she was told it was a random sample, "done as it is always done."