Taurasi has Turkish contract voided for doping

Posted Jan. 06, 2011, at 11:25 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 06, 2011, at 8:37 p.m.

ANKARA, Turkey — American basketball star Diana Taurasi had her contract terminated by Turkish club Fenerbahce on Thursday after her “B” sample tested positive for doping.

The Istanbul-based club made its decision after the Turkish Basketball Federation announced the results of the doping test on its website. Taurasi faces a ban of up to two years, putting in jeopardy her chances of playing for the United States at the 2012 London Olympics.

The federation has not announced a decision on Taurasi’s punishment.

Taurasi’s “A” sample tested positive last month for the banned stimulant modafinil following a Turkish league game on Nov. 13. Taurasi had been suspended by Fenerbahce ever since.

The International Olympic Committee bars any athlete given a doping penalty of six months or more from competing in the next games. Taurasi helped the Americans win gold medals at the past two Olympics and was the leading scorer when the U.S. won the women’s world championships.

Modafinil is used to counter excessive sleepiness due to narcolepsy, shift-work sleep disorder or sleep apnea, according to drug manufacturers.

On Tuesday, Geno Auriemma, the United States coach for the 2012 Olympics, said the former University of Connecticut star told him that she did not take modafinil. He also said he didn’t know if Taurasi had any problems with sleeplessness.

One of the most decorated women’s players in history, Taurasi led the WNBA in scoring for a league-record fourth straight year, averaging 22.6 points last season. The five-time All-Star and two-time WNBA champion signed a multiyear contract extension with Phoenix in August.

The Mercury have not commented publicly on the doping case.

Taurasi is one of many American stars who play overseas in the winter because salaries are significantly higher than in the WNBA. She played in Russia for four years for Spartak before joining the Turkish league this season.

Taurasi was leading the league in scoring with 24.6 points per game.

Two of Taurasi’s teammates at Fenerbahce have resisted doping tests in Turkey because they do not trust the lab that tests the samples. Australian player Penny Taylor and Czech teammate Hana Horakova provided samples only after the Turkish federation agreed to send them to Germany for testing at a lab in Cologne.

The two players were tested after Fenerbahce’s Turkish league game on Sunday.

Modafinil has been involved in several major doping cases, including that of American sprinter Kelli White, and is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances.

White won the 100- and 200-meter races at the 2003 world championships in Paris, but both her medals were stripped after she tested positive for the stimulant.

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma was standing by his former Connecticut star  Taurasi.

Auriemma said Taurasi told him that she didn’t take the banned substance — modafinil — that she tested positive for last month.

“I’m not privy to all the information,” Auriemma said after UConn’s practice Tuesday. “I don’t know what her attorney knows. I don’t know what the Turkish federation knows. I don’t know what the doping agency knows. I don’t know any of that stuff. All I know is from talking to Diana. And I know she’s really, really devastated by all this. And she told me, ‘Coach I didn’t take that. Whatever they’re saying I didn’t do it.’ And I’ve got to believe her.”

Taurasi had been provisionally suspended by her Turkish club team Fenerbahce pending the result of her “B” sample test, which was analyzed at the doping lab at Hacettepe University in Ankara. Her backup doping sample came back positive and she faces a possible two-year ban, Turkish news reports said Monday.

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