The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled yesterday that U.S. sprinter Jerome Young should have been ineligible to compete in the 2000 Olympics because of a positive drug test the year before and therefore should be stripped of his gold medal from the 4x400-meter relay.

The court ruled that a USA Track and Field appeals board made a "capricious" and "erroneous" decision in exonerating Young shortly before the Sydney Games, but it declined to offer an opinion on whether retired 400 world record holder Michael Johnson and the other members of the relay team should also lose their gold medals, referring that decision to the world track and field governing body (IAAF) and International Olympic Committee.

An IAAF spokesman said yesterday the organization was reviewing all relevant results for Young from June 26, 1999, through June 25, 2001, the period the CAS panel said Young should have been suspended, and would make a decision soon.

The ruling brings nearly to an end a massive and bitter turf battle between the USATF and IAAF that began during the 2000 Games and belied the proportions of Young's specific case.

Young -- who competed in a qualifying heat for the relay team, but not the final -- was not among Team USA's stars in Sydney. He also was one of many athletes to test positive for the steroid nandrolone after steroid precursors became available over-the-counter via a 1994 U.S. law deregulating the dietary supplement industry.

Since then, many athletes who tested positive for nandrolone maintained that they had ingested contaminated supplements, an argument occasionally accepted when the positives first began occurring but now always rejected.

In Young's case, international officials were determined to obtain what they believed was long overdue justice from USATF, with which they had butted heads for years over allegations of drug cover-ups and rights of disclosure. USATF has long insisted that it had been handcuffed by U.S. laws governing privacy and confidentiality.

In its decision yesterday, the Swiss-based CAS ruled that Young should have been banned from competition for two years, in accordance with an initial ruling in arbitration that was overturned by a USATF doping appeals board.

CAS said the appeals board acted improperly when it relied on evidence from a defense expert who claimed that two negative urine tests taken around the positive test cast doubt on the validity of the positive. CAS noted that the board apparently disregarded the testimony of Larry Bowers, the former director of the IOC-accredited lab in Indianapolis, who testified that a nandrolone-laced supplement could have caused the lone positive.

CAS found that Young's witness was not properly qualified and put forward an irrelevant theory.

The "decision was capricious and one which no tribunal, properly directing itself, could have reached," CAS ruled in the 24-page decision.

During the 2000 Olympics, the IAAF's chief medical officer accused the USATF of hiding the results of more than a dozen positive tests. USATF CEO Craig Masback argued that the organization had not covered up any tests, but rather had not revealed the names of athletes who had tested positive for substances but were later exonerated through arbitration. Masback took refuge in the Amateur Sports Act, the law that governs Olympic operations in the United States.

The IAAF, IOC and, later, the U.S. Olympic Committee, rejected that stance and demanded that the organization turn over the names of the unidentified athletes, specifically one said to have earned a gold medal in Sydney.

The USATF declined to reveal the name, however, until the Los Angeles Times revealed Young's name during the world championships in St. Denis, France.

The USATF said in a statement yesterday that it would abide by the CAS decision. The USATF no longer handles doping matters; all cases in the United States now fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Jerome Young tested positive for nandrolone in 1999, won gold medal as part of 4x400 relay team in 2000. CAS ruled that Jerome Young should not have been eligible to compete in Sydney, but did not opine on medals status of other relay team members.