Taurasi Tests Positive for Banned Substance
By DOUG FEINBERG, AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Diana Taurasi is facing one of the most difficult challenges to her stellar basketball career.
The WNBA standout and former UConn star tested positive for a mild stimulant while playing in a pro league in Turkey, her lawyer told The Associated Press on Thursday night.
Howard Jacobs said that Taurasi’s “A” sample came back positive from a lab in Turkey last week. Jacobs said the substance “was not a steroid or recreational drug,” and that Taurasi has asked that her “B” sample be tested.
The Turkish basketball federation said Friday that the substance in Taurasi’s positive test was modafinil. Modafinil is used to counter excessive sleepiness due to narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder or sleep apnea, according to the website for prescription drug Provigil, which contains the substance.
Taurasi has been provisionally suspended pending the testing of her “B” sample in the first week of January. She has already missed three games with her team, Fenerbahce.
Neither Jacobs nor Fenerbahce confirmed that Taurasi tested positive for modafinil, which has been involved in several major doping cases, including that of U.S. sprinter Kelli White.
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.
Fenerbahce said in a statement posted on its website that Taurasi was upset that the doping claims broke before the testing process was finalized.
“She is extremely disturbed that her right to confidentially has been breached and doping claims have been made even before the results of her test are out,” Fenerbahce said.
Taurasi’s positive test came to light two days after the top-ranked Huskies won their 89th straight game, surpassing the UCLA men’s winning streak from 1971-74. Taurasi helped lead UConn to three straight national championships as well as 70 consecutive victories from 2001-03. She was the AP Player of the Year in 2003.
“We’re taking it one step at a time,” Jacobs said. “I’d rather not say what it is at this stage, they’ve only tested the ‘A’ sample. Somehow it leaked over in Turkey. We’re waiting for the ‘B’ sample to be tested. We’ve had some difficulty with getting a date so far, mostly because of the holidays. We’re hoping to get it as soon as we can.”
A call to UConn coach Geno Auriemma was not immediately returned.
“While she is fully cooperating with authorities, there are serious doubts about the accuracy of the test results,” Jacobs said in a statement to the AP. “We are confident that Diana will be fully vindicated once all the evidence is reviewed. She regrets that someone has violated the confidentiality rules of this process, and will make no further statement at this time.”
WNBA spokesman Ron Howard said the league had no comment.
“In the 10 years of competition at the collegiate, professional and Olympic level,” said Jacobs. “Diana Taurasi has never taken, been suspected of using, or tested positive for any performance enhancing substance.”
Jacobs said he didn’t know what the length of the suspension would be, nor was he familiar with the details of theTurkish league’s anti-doping code. He also said it was too early to know how this might affect Taurasi’s eligibility for the London 2012 Olympics. The International Olympic Committee bars any athlete given a doping penalty of six months or more from competing in the next games.
Taurasi, who has won two Olympic gold medals, helped guide the U.S. national team to the world championship in early October. She led the WNBA in scoring for a league-record fourth straight year, averaging 22.6 points per game.
The five-time All-Star and two-time WNBA champion signed a multiyear contract extension with the Phoenix Mercury in August.
Reached at the Miami Heat-Phoenix Suns game, Rick Weltz, president of the Suns and Mercury, said the team had no comment.
Taurasi served one day in jail and was suspended by the team for two games in 2009 after pleading guilty to a DUI charge.
She played in Russia for four years for powerhouse Spartak before joining the Turkish League this season. That league also features WNBA stars Sylvia Fowles, Penny Taylor and Seimone Augustus.
Taurasi is leading the league this season with 24.6 points a game.
Associated Press Writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and Erol Israfil in Istanbul contributed to the report.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)