Michael Johnson and the other members of the U.S. 4x400 relay team who competed at the 2000 Olympics should be stripped of their gold medals, the world governing body of track and field (IAAF) ruled during an emergency meeting Sunday.
The recommendation was made in connection with a recent Court of Arbitration for Sports ruling that stated that Jerome Young, a member of that relay team, should have been ineligible for the competition after testing positive in 1999 for a steroid.
The IAAF Council ruled Sunday that Young's ineligibility forced it to nullify all results occurring within two years of the date of the offense, including those at the Sydney Games.
"We don't consider it a triumph," IAAF Secretary General Istvan Gyulai said, according to the Association Press. "We consider it our moral obligation."
The gold was the fifth and final Olympic medal for Johnson, the world record holder in the 200 and 400 who ran the anchor leg in the final. Young competed only in the early rounds. Twin brothers Alvin and Calvin Harrison, Antonio Pettigrew and Angelo Taylor also competed on the team.
The International Olympic Committee, which has said it will act on the advice of the IAAF, will consider the organization's recommendation when it convenes during the Athens Games.
"The IOC told us that we follow your decision," IAAF President Lamine Diack told AP.
"There is nothing for me to do until the final decision is made because the IAAF are not in a position to make the final decision," Johnson told the Dallas Morning News. "Their decision is what it is, a recommendation."
In a brief statement, USA Track & Field indicated that it will contest the ruling.
"USA Track & Field appreciates the care with which the IAAF considered this issue but regrets the IAAF Council's decision," the organization said in a statement issued by spokesman Jill Geer. "USATF will continue to work through all appropriate channels on behalf of the affected athletes."
Nigeria stands to win the gold should the IOC support the recommendation. Jamaica would get the silver and Bahamas the bronze.
Young, who tested positive for nandrolone, was originally exonerated by a USA Track and Field appeals board, which ruled that two negative tests for nandrolone around the positive test brought into question the validity of the positive. CAS was given the issue for reconsideration after Young was identified by the Los Angeles Times last year as having tested positive and the IAAF demanded that the case be examined.
The IAAF had never been informed of the positive test because of Young's exoneration.