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Upset Szabo may call it quits

Bucharest: Romanian Olympic 5,000 metre gold medallist Gabriela Szabo may quit athletics after French border police found a banned substance in her car.

“I’m feeling terrible, I never felt so hunted in my life,” an emotional Szabo said from France on Thursday. “I’m so upset at what has happened that I’m considering giving up my sport.”

Last weekend, border police stopped a car owned by Szabo and driven by a family friend during a routine patrol on the motorway at La Turbie, a village overlooking Monaco. They seized medical products suspected to be performance-enhancing.

The incident has reverberated across the Romanian media and Szabo said she is worried her clean reputation and illustrious career will suffer even though she knew nothing about the drugs. The six-times world champion, now in the Pyrenees mountain resort of Font-Romeu to train for the world championships, was in Amsterdam when the incident occurred.

The middle and long-distance runner and her coach Szolt Gyongyossy were returning from a month’s training in South Africa. A French border police spokesman said this week that the performance-enhancing drug Actovegin, a derivative of calf serum used to increase the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, had been found in Szabo’s car.

“Our family friend who drove my car told me that Actovegin was sent by a Romanian physiotherapist for Mihaela Botezan, who is in the team as 5,000- and 10,000-metre runner,” said Szabo.

On Wednesday, Botezan confirmed that Actovegin was recommended and sent for her. Romanian team doctor Mioara Gonea, who is in Bucharest, said she used the opportunity to send various drugs from the country to Font-Romeu via Szabo’s car, but Actovegin was not among them.

On Thursday, Romanian athletics authorities said Botezan might be automatically suspended for two years.

Gyongyossy said that Szabo, 27, had lost her concentration during training and suffered a muscle strain that would keep her out of action for at least 10 days.

“All our staff are now trying to improve her mood as, just to underline again, she had no connection with what happened,” Gyongyossy said.“We hope Gabi will prove in Paris (at the World Championships) that her reputation is unstained.”

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