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Drug-haul off Szabo’s car

Paris: Olympic and world middle-distance running champion Gabriela Szabo has been dragged into a possible drugs scandal, according to L’Equipe sports daily.

French customs confirmed a report that they had seized drugs in a car belonging to the Romanian 1,500m world and 5,000m Olympic champion, and were checking whether they were banned performance-enhancers.

Szabo, 27, was not in the car when it was stopped near the Italian border.

Among the drugs seized were progesteron, used for hormonal replacement therapy, and actovegin, a food supplement made from veal’s blood.

IOC medical commission president Patrick Schamasch told L’Equipe that actovegin was no longer considered as an endurance-enhancer although it was still officially on the prohibited list.

Szabo’s husband and coach, Zsolt Gyongyossy told L’Equipe the drugs were for another of his athletes and he would be meeting customs officials to clarify the situation.

French customs and the government-funded agency for drug prevention have been exercising their power increasingly since 1998. Police arrested a Romanian citizen, Daniel Vlad, who was driving Szabo’s car to the Pyrenees resort of Font-Romeu, near Spain, where a group of 21 Romanian athletes are training at altitude.

A border police spokesman said the performance-enhancing drug Actovegin, a derivative of calf serum used to increase the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, had been found. When the prosecutor’s office in Nice launched an investigation, Vlad was interrogated by the police but was “very vague”, the spokesman said.

Coach Zsolt Gyongyossy, in Font-Romeu with the Romanian team, said Tuesday the Olympic gold medal winner was upset and did not train on Tuesday.

Romanian team doctor Mioara Gonea said she had sent various drugs to Font-Romeu, where the country’s squad are preparing for the world championships in Paris in August, but Actovegin was not among them.

“As Gabriela’s car was going to France I used that opportunity to send some effort-sustaining drugs for Romanian athletes, but not Actovegin,” Gonea said.

Romanian athletes and coaches in Font-Romeu said French police had checked the team’s hotel, but police denied the claim.

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